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Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan] Many Departments have been decentralised over the years and every public representative in the country engages with them. Such offices, whether in Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Cork or anywhere else, are efficient and excellent at doing their job. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was decentralised to Wexford and Portlaoise and no one can say that those two offices are not doing their jobs properly. We have to challenge this notion that it cannot happen because it can, with the proper will from the Government. We should take a look at what happened during the pandemic. Irish people are always a step ahead and they have made these decisions already. One multinational company told its workers this week that it would not bring staff who were working from home into its headquarters for another 12 months. It has made the decision that people are productive while working from home and are doing an excellent job in those communities. We as a State have to take on board what is happening. People have changed their attitudes, spoken with their feet and have been working from home in their communities. Doing so leads to a better life, more fulfilment, more involvement in communities, a better family life and a better society that supports families, elderly people and young people. It leads to a completely better life and this notion that everything has to be centred in Dublin must be dispelled.

As the Government makes decisions over the next while, I appeal to the Minister to be bold and brave and to embrace the changes society and people have made by voting with their feet. We must engage with people and embrace the changes they have adopted. We must also put a proper scheme in place to incentivise people to work from their own homes and communities and to enhance those communities the length and breadth of the country. I refer to my own community in Duhallow in Cork North-West. We must also make sure that the decisions taken are brave enough and that the Government is brave enough, on this occasion, to put together a proper decentralisation agenda. Departments should be moved out of Dublin to places with cheaper rent, reduced commute times and less demand on taxpayers for transport and housing. By doing that, we can have more people living in rural communities and build them up.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I welcome this Bill but I have some deep reservations about it. They are quite technical and I hope the Minister can take them on board. There is a pattern in rural areas, particularly along the west coast, of tourism businesses opening from St. Patrick's Day, or around March or Easter, and closing around Hallowe'en or near Christmas. Many of them are not open in January and February every year. That is crucial because, as a consequence, they were not eligible under the TWSS. I welcome the effort to address this through the introduction of the EWSS. Many of these businesses, such as hotels and so on, did not open at all in the first half of this year and so their turnover for that period was down by 100%. If the staycation incentive works, their income in the second half of the year might be quite good and might be over the 70% threshold. According to the Bill as drafted, these businesses, which were not entitled to the TWSS because they were not trading in January and February, will also not be entitled to the EWSS if their turnover in the second half of the year is over 70%, despite the fact that the gross turnover might only be 40% of their 2019 turnover. Businesses that were trading in January and February and continued trading throughout the year at a capacity of just under 70% would be entitled to both schemes. I suggest a very simple change, which is that the 1 July date is put back to 1 January. If a business's turnover for the year is down by 30%, it should be entitled to the scheme. Otherwise, there will be a double-whammy for seasonal tourist businesses, which will put many of them out of business.

I am always worried about the second iteration of a scheme because sometimes when people get at it, they add more and more conditions. When I looked at the small print, I noticed that, for some reason, proprietary directors are now excluded from the EWSS scheme. Ireland is full of very small self-employed businesses, some of which are formed into small companies, and the proprietary directors can sometimes comprise between 40% and 70% of the workforce. These proprietary directors are ordinary workers in the business as well. This Bill proposes to allow them to write off last year's tax, take a credit or average it over two years, but that is not going to solve these people's problems because while some of these companies will be making a profit, the actual profits will be very small once they have paid themselves a salary. Some of them will have a small turnover. I know of one company in the crystal business, for example. As there will be no foreign tourists this year and its product is not as big a seller on the local market for the staycation business, it will hold onto its master craftspeople for the full year and will produce products that, please God, it will be able to sell next year if its bookings hold up and we get international tourists. Its other choice is to let its master workers, who in some cases have been there for up to 40 years, go. The Minister knows the consequence of that. Losing that kind of expertise would decimate a small business. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister might be able to look at the exclusion and take it out of the Bill, at least for very small companies. It would make a significant difference if he did so.

I refer to the staycation or stay and spend tax credit. I listened to the debate on this matter and I can understand the attraction from an administrative point of view because it is a good fix given how many taxpayers there are. However, I join those who said it removes a very important segment of people from the market, namely, those who do not have a taxable income or do not pay income tax.

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