herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

Budget 2015: A see-saw budget that was hailed as the 'end of austerity'

14/10/2014 Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin TD arriving at Government Buildings to pose for the media ahead of the Budget for 2015. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.
14/10/2014 Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin TD arriving at Government Buildings to pose for the media ahead of the Budget for 2015. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

The Government hailed yesterday's Budget as the end of austerity - but opposition parties dismissed it as auction politics ahead of the next general election.

And for the vast majority of people on the street, Budget 2015's well-heralded savings may simply be used to cover water charges and other fees on the horizon.

After a series of austerity budgets that crippled the workforce and did little to assist the unemployed, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition promised relief and it appeared as such on the surface.

Aside from a 40c increase in the price of cigarettes, there were reductions across the board from the Universal Social Charge (USC), income tax and even an increase in child benefit. The old reliables of motor tax and petrol remained untouched and there were no cruel cuts for social welfare recipients.

positive

For all PAYE workers one big change is in the tax bands.

The top rate of income tax will drop from 41pc to 40pc and the income tax standard rate band will rise by €1,000 to €33,800 for single individuals and by €2,000 to €34,800 for a couple.

What this means in the wallet is that a single person with no children earning €35,000 will see their take home pay rise by €396 a year.

A married couple on one income with two children earning €45,000 will take home €526 a year more after child benefit, or €777 if they earn €100,000 between them.

As far as USC goes, yesterday's Budget brought about lots of changes, but not all were positive.

Low-income earners will not pay any USC if they do not earn more than €12,012 a year.

For workers who pay a 2pc USC rate this now drops to 1.5pc and those who pay 4pc will only pay at the rate of 3.5pc. Anyone who earns between €17,577 and €70,044 will pay USC at a rate of 7pc.

Those on a salary above €70,044 or who are self-employed and earning more than €100,000 will be hit hard by the USC. The Government introduced a new 8pc rate for incomes in excess of €70,044 and an 11pc rate of USC for self-employed people with an income in excess of €100,000.

For medical card-holders, the exemption from the top rate of 3.5pc for USC has been retained for those card-holders earning less than €60,000 a year.

And the same applies for people over the age of 70 with annual incomes lower than €60,000.

With new water charge measures, householders will be able to claim back 20pc of their bill under a tax relief in Budget 2015 - but this saving won't be immediately notable in pay packets.

The bill for a family of two adults and two children is estimated at €278, with tax relief of €55.60.

But for most, the incoming charges in January outweigh the savings.

Laura Haugh, who oversees the growing website MummyPages.ie, said: "When you take everything into account, especially property tax and water charges, we will probably be worse off next year.

"The tax relief on water charges has softened the blow a little, but I'm really disappointed that there was no tax concession on childcare."

A married couple with two children and earning anything between €15,000 and €40,000 will ultimately be worse off next year after water charges and the property tax fees are loaded on to the household bills.

Parents will get an extra €5 a month per child in the children's benefit allowance, but for most this is pittance when balanced out against expensive childcare costs.

Smokers bore the brunt of the measures - the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes will smash through the €10 barrier with a 40 cent increase.

There was, however, some good news for pensioners in yesterday's Budget, with the levy on pensions being cut in 2015 and scrapped entirely in 2016.

GOODWILL

For 180,000 older people, they will get an increase of €9 a week in the living-alone allowance.

In a parting goodwill gesture, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has pledged that the Pension Levy will no longer exist by the end of 2015, and there will be a 25pc Christmas bonus payment for social welfare recipients this year.

Budget 2015 was hailed as an end to austerity, but the Opposition said that these measures are simply optics to win over votes.

"This Budget is all about using borrowed money to buy votes," said Fianna Fail's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath.

jfegan@herald.ie

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