So yesterday went okay… Didn’t it? We spent all last week in fearful anticipation as we stressed about the water charges coming in. Was Joan Burton coming after our iPhones? However, yesterday’s budget has been lukewarmly received by many, although such a reaction may have more to do with political fatigue as opposed to meh-ish enthusiasm.
We look at some of the key takeaways…
Do we need to whine about wine?
Pass the pinot and praise Dionysus, for there was no rush on off-licenses last night as the government didn’t raise the price of a pint or a bottle of wine.
Social welfare – what’s the story?
Child benefit is going up €5, a move which parents and the National Women’s Council welcomes after years of relentless cuts amounting to over €400 million since 2009. However, the NWC is quick to point out that such an increase does little to offset the cost of childcare for working parents, an average of €800 – €1000 a month. Orla O’Connor lamented this lack of long-term planning, saying,
“the potential to develop a quality publicly subsidised model; of childcare on par with other European countries is one opportunity missed in this budget.”
What’s this about a Christmas bonus?
The Christmas bonus is being reintroduced for long-term social welfare recipients. This top-up payment will amount to 25% of one’s weekly welfare payment. If you’ve been claiming for less than a year or are surviving on jobseeker’s benefit you won’t see this ‘bonus’. Considering the expense and stress of the festive season, this is a welcome development. The bonus had been suspended in 2009 by the previous government so pensioners, carers, lone parents and many others in need can look forward somewhat to Christmas.
Will pensioners see any improvements?
Yes, actually. The living alone allowance is being increased by €1.30 a week. Free travel and the electricity and gas allowance aren’t being touched. The water charges tax relief – see below – will apply to wealthy pensioners, while those on the basic state pension will receive a subsidy.
About those water charges…
Despite the efforts of angry citizens up and down the country, the water charges are here to stay and fester. However, a tax relief package has been promised to some households on benefits packages, which is worth up to €100 a year.
Weirdly enough, this relief is not available to those earning less than €15,000 a year, the very people struggling to scrape money together to pay the charges. The same goes to people unemployed for less than a year.
The Universal Social Charge
We caught up with Deirdre Lyons of Davy to talk through some of the main points regarding savings and earnings. Overall, the changes to the controversial Universal Social Charge are attracting the most sighs of relief. Part-time workers and very low earners will get a small break – nearly 80,000 workers will no longer fall within its remit. Low to middle earners will also see a much-desired reduction of a half percent. Deirdre points out that for some people this means an addition to take-home pay that is the equivalent to a nice bottle of wine every week or even a weekend away. Bottoms up on that left-alone-alcohol. However, if you earn over €70,000 a year your USC is going up – the new rate is 8%. The self-employed will be entitled to a grumble as a rate of 11% for those earning over €100,000 is introduced. The higher rate of income tax is being reduced from 41% to 40%.
Good news if you have a private pension
The tax on private pension savings is being reduced from .6% to .15% – with a view to ending this tax in 2016. This means there will be “more of an incentive” to start a pension, says Deirdre. Considering people “can be a bit squeamish” when it comes to pensions so this improvement is good for everyone looking to plan for the future.
Looking to buy your first home?
Last week everyone freaked out when the banks announced that first time buyers would have to have a 20% deposit saved. Well, in slightly good news there will be a refund of deposit interest tax, DIRT. Deirdre says this measure will somewhat help the “cohort of people saving hard” over the past few years who feel unduly punished by last week’s news. This is also another incentive to save, something the government seem to be encouraging the most with this budget.
And the last word – give up smoking.
A packet of cigarettes will cost €10 and even those savvy 25 gram bags of tobacco will be 20 cents more expensive. This is no country for smokers.
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun