MINISTER Joan Burton has described her idea for taxing child benefit for parents earning more than €100,000 as a "personal preference".
The Minister for Social Protection is under increasing pressure to identify the terms of the proposed child benefit tax for those on more than €100,000.
A suggestion that the tax would be based on the individual income of parents rather than their joint salaries has raised eyebrows.
If the idea was to go ahead it would see a family where one person earns €100,000 paying tax, but a couple with a joint income of €198,000, split evenly, could escape the new tax.
Ms Burton said that Ireland was in a unique position with universal child benefit payments for everyone regardless of their standing.
The idea of an extra tax for wealthy people would be a sure fire way to raise funds and make the system fairer for everyone.
It's estimated that there are approximately 113,500 people earning more than €100,000 who are entitled to the €140 monthly payment.
The Minister said that she has plans to improve the tax system to integrate tax and social welfare systems and have a refundable child tax credit.
"We have to bear this in mind and they know this, that probably the best way to do this would be to take people on very high incomes -- say on €100,000 plus -- and to have a system where the child benefit is taxed," she said.
However, she said that one of the difficulties so far was that the Revenue and the Department of Finance have always been adverse to doing that.
"But it certainly would be, for a lot of people, probably the best way," she adds.
Ms Burton said in the newspaper interview that the matter had been discussed by an advisory group and the Revenue.
But a representative for Minister Burton confirmed that the idea was simply her own "personal preference" for taxing child benefit, rather than an actual budgetary decision.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government has not ruled it in or out.
Ms Burton said that there were no promises in relation to further social welfare cuts.
"No decision is made and until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed," she said.
"I don't think, given the tightness of the Budget, we can afford the doubling and tripling up of payments," she said.
"We must maintain core payments but where we make reductions we could make them in addition to payments."
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that while no one would quibble with taxing child benefit for those earning €100,000, it would not have a "very significant impact" and suggested "gesture politics".
Previous governments have failed to grapple with the technical difficulties associated with taxing child benefit.