I move amendment No. 1:
In page 8, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:
“(3) Within 6 months of the passing of this act, the Minister shall produce a report on the benefit of abolishing the Universal Social Charge on all income below €90,000 and replacing it with 4 new income tax bands for income earned between, €100,000 and €140,000, €140,000 and €180,000, €180,000 and €250,000 and over €250,000.”.
Since the great tax marches of the early 1980s, the question of tax justice has been a burning issue for working people in this country. Indeed, one cannot really understand the enormous movement around water charges, property tax and bin taxes without understanding the burning sense of grievance that working people feel over the historically unjust character of the tax system. It is not that workers are unreasonable. They have been out on the streets on these issues again and again since before the Minister's time in politics or mine. Taken in the round, workers justifiably feel that the tax system is unfair and disproportionately punishes them while letting the wealthy and large corporations off the hook of making a tax contribution to fund our services and society.
In that regard, the universal social charge was a bitter pill to swallow, as were the property tax, water charges and so on. Since it was Revenue that took the USC and, subsequently, property tax, there was not much that workers could do, but they expressed their fury on the issue of water charges. One should be in no doubt that the anger expressed on water was also an anger at the property tax, USC and many indirect and hidden taxes and charges that working people have to put up with.
It is in that context that this amendment attempts to redress the balance in the tax injustice that pervades the Irish tax system. Our amendment proposes to get rid of USC for everyone earning less than €90,000, a commitment that this Government made, and to pay for it by making some of the wealthiest in society pay their fair share. There is something of a false debate about whether the Government should be promising tax cuts as against spending on public services. I do not accept that as the correct parameter for the debate. There can be tax justice for workers and more money for public services if the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share. This is one of a suite of amendments that we have proposed to move in that direction. I do not expect that the Minister will accept them, but they must nonetheless be aired.
The specific proposal in this amendment is that USC for those earning less than €90,000 should be abolished and replaced with four additional bands of taxation on those earning in excess of €100,000 so that people earning between €100,000 and €140,000 pay 50% tax on that portion of income, people earning between €140,000 and €180,000 pay 55%, people earning between €180,000 and €250,000 pay 60%, and people earning more than €250,000 pay 65%. According to the Minister's response to my parliamentary question, this would raise €2.1 billion. That is a lot of money, and we could use it to give tax relief to workers at the lower end without undermining the famous tax base.
This is about shifting the tax balance from those who have been hard hit, the very people the Taoiseach was talking about at the weekend. Let us take some pressure off them and pay for it by making those who are not paying their fair share do so. It is a small cohort of people. According to the CSO, the wealthiest 10% in society get 40% of the income. I always laugh when I hear the Minister or the Taoiseach saying that the wealthiest 10% pay 40% of the taxes. Of course they do. It is because they have 40% of the income. Proportionately, though, and when all of the indirect taxes, USC and so on are taken into account, are they paying the same amount of their income as people at the bottom? They are not. That was confirmed by the Comptroller and Auditor General when he pointed out that an incredible 90 of the richest individuals in this country, high net worth individuals who have well in excess of €50 million each, are paying less tax than the average worker and are managing to do so on the basis of loopholes and tax reliefs of which they can avail.
This brings me to my final point. It is a bit rich that, at the same time as the Taoiseach talked at the weekend about giving relief to working people in terms of tax, we discovered that Revenue was making a grab for the tiny bit of tax relief that some of the lowest paid and most precariously employed workers in this country enjoyed.
We are talking here about €85 million in reliefs claimed by shop assistants, freelance actors whose working lives are totally precarious, freelance journalists and so on. A further grab may be made for allowances claimed by construction workers, bar staff and others who receive relief of a few hundred euro. At the same time, the Comptroller and Auditor General has identified an incredible €213 billion worth of reliefs and allowances that are benefiting big corporations and the very wealthy. We must address these double standards. The amendment would make an attempt to move in that direction.