From water charges to sugar tax, the proposed plan will impact on your wallet
– Taxes on your income: The programme promises to ask the Oireachtas to approve a tax plan which will “continue to phase out the USC” as part of a medium- term strategy. So more USC cuts are on the way and as the emphasis is on “ low and middle” earners, it is likely that the biggest cuts will apply to earnings up to €70,000, a continuantion of the strategy in the last two Budgets. The new tax plan will be published by July.
Gains from USC cuts will continue to be clawed back from higher earners. The document says that the PAYE tax credit will be removed for higher earners, who may also be hit by other unspecified “measures.” This could mean little by way of net gains for those on €100,000 plus, when gains from USC cuts are netted off against cuts in tax credits.
Interestingly, the document also says that overall tax credits and bands will not be indexed for inflation. This means that many taxpayers will face a kind of automatic tax increase as they get wage increases and see more of their income in the tax net, or exposed to the higher income tax rate. This is a kind of stealth tax increase which will offset some of the gains of USC cuts even for average earners.
There is good news for the self-employed.A new tax credit of €550 was introduced for this group in the last Budget and this will, as indicated at the time, rise to equal the €1,650 PAYE tax credit by 2018. There is also a commitment to introduce a PRSI scheme for the self-employed
– Entrepreneurs: Those running a business have long complained that the tax system provides them with few incentives. The new plan promises to cut the capital gains tax rate for new start-ups to 10 per cent from 2017, a measure to stay in place for five years, with a cap of €10 million. This will lower the tax take for those who sell their businesses. There is also a promise to explore how key employees in SMEs can be rewarded with share options in a tax efficient manner.
– Water charges: Water bills will be “suspended” for at least nine months, giving those who paid €3 a week back. The Water Conservations Grant will also go.
– Sugar and smokes: There is to be a new tax on “sugar sweetened drinks”. A similar tax was announced in the UK, to apply from April 2018 there and campaigners called for it to add at least 20 per cent to the price.We have no indication of what the cost might be here. Smokers, meanwhile, will continue to suffer from increased excise duties of cigarettes.
– Dealing with debts: There are to be new measures to help those in debt, particularly mortgage arrears, with increased pressure on banks to offer “sustainable” solutions and a new court to be established to deal with mortgage arrears. The way personal insolvency arrangements work will also be reviewed.
– Low earners: A new “working family payments” is to be targeted at low-income families. This will ensure that every parent working at least 15 hours a week will be guaranteed that every extra hour will lead to more take home pay. At the moment the interplay of the tax and welfare system means in some cases this does not happen. There is also a commitment to increase the minimum wage to €10.50 an hour over the next five years.
– Dental health: A new dental health programme is to be introduced for the under-6s, to add to existing checks available for 6,9 and 12 year -olds. The dental treatment benefit package under the social insurance fund will also be expanded to reimburse the cost of some more routine treatments.
– Pensions and allowances: While no figures are given, there are commitments to increase the old-age pension “ahead of inflation” and also the living alone allowances. There is also a promise to cut the cost of medicines by introducing an annual cap on the drugs payments scheme and reducing prescription charges for medical card holders.Disability benefit and allowances, carer’s benefits and allowances and the blind person’s pension are also to increase.
– Families: Paid parental leave is to be extended in the first year of a baby’s life. There are commitments to develop targeted supports to reduce childcare costs – though no detail here – and also increased supports for parents who stay at home. The free second pre-school year promised in the Budget will go ahead.
– House costs and interest rates: There is a commitment to cut the VAT rate on “ affordable” new homes from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent – to try to cut the cost of buying for first-times. The plan also commits to put pressure on the banks to reduce standard variable mortgage rates, a big issues for many younger buyers. Rent supplement is also to rise. Finally, and possibly significantly for first-time buyers, there is a commitment to develop a “help to buy” scheme to assist them.
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