Finance Bill 2019: Report Stage

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

Sea-going naval personnel credit

5. (1) The Principal Act is amended—

(a) in section 458, by inserting, in Part 2 of the Table to that section, “Section 472BB” after “Section 472BA”, and

(b) by inserting the following after section 472BA:

Sea-going naval personnel credit 472BB.

(1) In this section—

‘day at sea’ means a cumulative period of 8 hours within any 24-hour period on patrol at sea on board a naval vessel;

‘naval vessel’ means a naval patrol vessel owned by the Minister for Defence;

‘qualifying individual’ means a permanent member of the Irish Naval Service who has spent at least 80 days at sea in a relevant period performing the duties of his or her employment;

‘relevant period’, in relation to a year of assessment, means the immediately preceding year of assessment.

(2) Where for the year of assessment 2020 an individual is a qualifying individual—

(a) he or she shall be entitled to a tax credit (to be known as the ‘sea-going naval personnel credit’) of €1,270, and

(b) relief shall not be given under section 472B or 472BA in respect of that year.”.

(2)This section shall apply for the year of assessment 2020.”.

This amendment inserts a new section into the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to provide a tax credit for permanent members of the Irish Naval Service. Where a permanent member of the service spent at least 80 days at sea on board a naval vessel in 2018, he or she will be entitled to a tax credit of €1,270 in 2020. This is a once-off measure which is intended to apply for 2020 only. It is intended to operate as a temporary device as we prepare for other measures in the context of future discussions on public pay.

The proposed measure is based on the design of the existing fisher tax credit, which was introduced in the budget of 2017 in recognition of the hardships and dangers faced by individuals engaged in that sector. It is important to recognise the critical support of the Naval Service, the role and support it provides to the Irish fishing fleet and the parallel circumstances in which its members operate when carrying out such duties. In the circumstances, it is appropriate that this measure is being introduced at this time and for the reasons I have outlined.

I welcome the amendment. In his remarks the Minister said it is a temporary measure. Will he elaborate further on the reason it is intended that this will only apply for one year? If it applies for the year of assessment, that is, 2020, and given that one of the conditions is that a member of the Naval Service has spent at least 80 days at sea, I assume the credit will be claimed in 2021 in respect of 2020 where a person has spent 80 days at sea in 2020. Given that, as the Minister has acknowledged, this is an extension of the existing fisher tax credit, as it is technically called, to members of the Naval Service, why is it temporary when the conditions are the same?

I hope the Minister realises the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis across our Defence Forces, including in the Naval Service. I received information on this by way of a reply to a parliamentary question. In 2018, the number of people in the Naval Service who had to buy their way out of discharge by rank included one corporal, 62 privates and 13 recruits, who collectively paid €72,000 to the Department to exit from the Naval Service. In addition, in 2018 there were 49 voluntary early retirements and 22 other discharges, including retirements on age grounds. When those figures are compared with previous years, it is very evident that the number of paid and voluntary discharges has increased significantly because of the retention crisis. Why can the measure not be a permanent part of the tax code?

Does any other Member wish to speak on this amendment?

I wish to clarify that this will apply for the minimum of 80 days that have been spent at sea on a naval vessel in 2019 and the amendment will allow the relief to be claimed for next year. On the Deputy's question regarding why this is being introduced as a temporary measure, the reason is that I anticipate, in the discussions following the conclusion of the public service stability wage agreement and regarding the recommendations from the Public Service Pay Commission report on our Defence Forces, that other options will be considered that can take the place of this measure.

I am aware of the difficulties with recruitment and retention faced by certain sections of our Defence Forces. I also place great value on the difficult and challenging work that our Defence Forces carry out at times. The Deputy will also be aware, however, of some changes we have made in pay for members of the Defence Forces. Those changes apply only to members of the Defence Forces and that recognises the demands those personnel face and the need of the Defence Forces to recruit and retain staff.

I will conclude with two brief points. Many of the issues referred to by Deputy Michael McGrath are a consequence of how well the wider employment market is going and the indirect demands that places on our Defence Forces. That is also the reason we did so much work through the Public Service Pay Commission. I am aware that once defence capacity becomes depleted, it can take a lot of time and expense to rebuild it.

I welcome this amendment and we will see how those pay discussions work out. In this Finance Bill, we are dealing with something available to many other public servants and, indeed, private sector employees. It is appropriate that this tax credit be made available to personnel in the Naval Service. It does raise a wider issue in that these personnel need to be seen as workers and their representative organisations need to be able to apply for membership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU. The working time directive also needs to cover the personnel of the Defence Forces when they are not on active service, and overtime rates should be paid.

Other issues also need to be dealt with in this discussion. With the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle, I will point out that there has been some confusion between his office and mine, which resulted in amendments I was submitting on Report Stage falling outside of the necessary time. That was unfortunate, but we have dealt with many of them on Committee Stage anyway. I just wanted to put that explanation on the record.

My understanding is that, as the Minister stated, the 80 days spent at sea requirement applies to 2019 and the benefit of the tax credit can then be claimed in 2020. Does the Minister have an estimate of the number of personnel in the Naval Service who will be in a position to avail of this tax credit in 2020 and what that cost will be? The Minister is correct in stating that many of the members of the Naval Service have found the option of working elsewhere attractive because of the relatively poor levels of pay they are now receiving. The training given and skills acquired in the Naval Service are highly valued. The reality is that those personnel find themselves unable even to pay for accommodation with the current level of pay. I know this issue well because the Naval Service is based in my own area. Many of the personnel have left because they can no longer afford to stay working with the Naval Service. I would be grateful if the Minister could deal with those direct questions on the number of personnel who will benefit and the cost of the tax credit in 2020.

I would also like to know what the estimated cost of the tax credit will be once it is possible to avail of it in 2020. As Deputy Michael McGrath and others did, I salute the personnel of the Naval Service and what they do. We have had great difficulties in retaining them. They have excellent training and I acknowledge the work they carried out in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean. These personnel are being headhunted, however, because they have that expertise. I am thankful that they have the skills, but it is a pity that they have to depend on the family income supplement, FIS, and support from their families. It is a sad reflection that the people who patrol our waters and protect our coastline from drugs coming in are in this situation. They need to be supported and we should help in whatever way we can.

In light of what Deputy Mattie McGrath said, in particular, I reiterate that the Naval Service is a good employer and a good place to work. Our Defence Forces seek to pay and reward their staff well for the difficult and demanding work they do. I acknowledge, however, as the Public Service Pay Commission also did, that because of the strength of earnings growth across our economy at the moment and the increasing levels of employment - as acknowledged only today, with more than 2.3 million people at work - we need to plan carefully for how we can ensure our Defence Forces have the right number of personnel at their disposal. On the questions posed, we believe that 240 people are likely to qualify and apply for this tax credit. Regarding the cost, we anticipate that will be between €300,000 and €500,000.

The Minister has replied, but Deputy Burton can make a contribution. The Minister will not be able to respond, however.

That is fair enough. Many people serving in the Naval Service will welcome this new tax credit. It is important to establish, though, whether people in the Army and the Air Corps are going to get the same benefit. While service with the Naval Service at sea is a particular type of service, confining this tax credit to help boost after-tax pay to the Naval Service is wrong. The problem of recruitment and retention is most acute in the Naval Service. Ships are tied up and unable to go to sea because so many people are leaving the Naval Service, it is now understaffed and unable to manage the fleet.

We know the theory is that the ships not in use are meant to be in dry dock for repairs. I do not think that is true. Repairs are indeed ongoing, but some of the ships appear to have been tied up for a very long time. There is also the fact that personnel in the Army and Air Corps also go on missions to different areas. Many of those missions take place under the auspices of international bodies and there may be associated daily rates of pay. Those kinds of missions, however, may involve people being out of the country for long periods of time.

In previous discussions on the budget, I stated that we need a public commission on the future of our military. We need to decide what kind of Defence Forces we are going to have in the years to come. Are we going to have personnel serving in an extremely hierarchical model, more appropriate to about 100 years ago, or are we going to have a progressive military where opportunities for promotion to the higher ranks will not be confined to a few? In almost all armies around the world, people can enlist as ordinary personnel and then progress, if they are committed to the armed services, to becoming an officer. That is difficult to achieve in our Army, in the Air Corps, if slightly less so, and in the Naval Service. We are in 2019 and yet people in the ranks are being treated in a far inferior way to people in the officer corps. That is simply because of a difference of two to three years' full-time education and training compared with those who have had the opportunity of becoming a cadet. Needless to say, many working-class people only qualify to enter the enlisted ranks and not the more senior ranks. Those people do not have an easy pathway to becoming officers.

What continues to be a feature of all of the services, particularly the Naval Service and Air Corps, is that personnel get excellent training which then qualifies them to take up jobs externally. What they do not have, however, is a clear internal promotional path, which means their earnings will always be low and they will never advance.

Pay needs to be addressed because some members of the Defence Forces are sleeping in cars and staying with relatives, while others are simply unable to provide for their families in the way that might be expected while they serve their country. Having Fine Gael in charge of defence for eight years has done unbelievable damage to the armed services. Many members of my family have served in the ranks. The Government must wake up and create modern Defence Forces that will be a credit to this country.

I had the opportunity to meet Irish personnel serving in Africa and other parts of the world. They have served with distinction and have been a credit to this country on the various missions they have undertaken. I would like to see fair play for the Army. The only way that Fine Gael will be able to sort out some of these issues is to have a proper commission for all the Defence Forces to produce a modern blueprint and pathways for personnel to have a decent career and, if it they are interested in doing so, to go forward and serve at officer rank, having developed the skills needed to do so.

The training in the armed services, which ranges from catering to transport and a host of other areas, can be very valuable. The apprenticeship system, which the Ceann Comhairle and others will be familiar with, was an important pathway for personnel to build up careers that they could then use when they left the services. It is a pity those have also been allowed to lapse.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 is in the names of Deputies Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith and Gino Kenny.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 10, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

"Report on special assignee relief programme

9. Within 6 months of the passing of this Act, the Minister shall produce a report on the implementation of the special assignee relief programme.".

The Minister will be aware that I am a big critic of what I describe as tax loopholes that reduce the effective tax rate paid by big corporations on what are often significant profits and some of the best paid people working in this country. When I talk to constituents about these tax loopholes and reliefs, which they do not get but a small privileged group gets, the special assignee relief programme is the one that really irritates them. In terms of the total amount of money involved, it is not astronomical in the way that many of the big loopholes for the corporate sector are but it really gets them. It horrifies them to think that there is a tax break available only to people who earn more than €75,000. I am not easily shocked by the inequalities that exist in society because I have become so used to them but even I was shocked by the numbers of people who benefit from this relief. The earnings of these people are quite shocking. We discussed this matter at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight when we were given a table showing the figures. Unfortunately, I do not have all the figures with me but I was staggered that dozens of people in various categories, including those earning between €250,000 and €350,000, between €350,000 and €450,000, and even higher amounts, were getting this tax relief which is not available to ordinary workers. I do not know how the Minister can justify that. I do not believe that removing this relief for people earning salaries that are unimaginable to ordinary people would cause them to flood out of the country. I do not buy that proposition. This is a giveaway to already stunningly well paid people, one which lets them off paying their fair share of tax. We should get rid of this relief. However, Opposition Deputies cannot do so because any attempt to remove it would be ruled out of order because it involves money. It is important for the record to state our opposition to this relief. I am curious to hear how the Minister would justify it.

I have opposed the special assignee relief programme for years. We were told when it was introduced that it was conditional on 20 new jobs being created for each person who benefits from it. We can see from the returns to the Revenue from the companies in question that the number of jobs created is nowhere near that figure. There is not a chance that the relief provides that type of benefit.

We do not have the latest figures on the cost of the relief. It cost €18 million in 2017 and the cost had increased in all of the previous years. If that trend continued in 2018 and 2019 and continues into 2020, the relief may cost the Exchequer anything up to €100 million. I have no idea if that is the case because we do not have the figures for 2018 and 2019 and we do not know what it will cost next year.

As Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned, this is an issue that sticks in the craw of many workers, particularly those who face the likelihood that their pay packets will reduce on 1 January 2020 because we have a passive Government dealing with the issue of flat rate expenses. The affected workers include 80,000 retail workers on low and middle income wages, many of whom struggle to get by and meet bills such as mortgage payments, insurance costs, rent and childcare costs. They will see a reduction in their take home pay as a result of a change that will take effect on 1 January. At the same time, in the Finance Bill the Minister is throwing millions of euro at just over 1,000 people who come to this country to work. We welcome anybody who comes here to work. One of the stipulations is that these people work in a certain environment and must earn over €75,000. The tax relief applies to income up to €1 million. As I have stated previously, three individuals benefit to the tune of €111,000. As a result of this section of the Bill, one individual will pay €111,000 less tax next year than a PAYE worker earning the same salary. Three of the individuals who benefit from the relief earn more than €3 million. There is no justification for this.

I have outlined only what people can write off through the 30% reduction in their tax liability. There are, however, other measures within the special assignee relief programme.

For example, private education for their children can be claimed back under this, as can flights back to their home countries twice a year, medical expenses and so forth. It is a huge suite of nice tax measures designed by this and the previous Governments that is not supposed to happen anymore. It was supposed to run out, although I never agreed with it, and the Minister is deciding to keep it. At the same time, 600,000 workers, many of them in the retail and hospitality sectors but also people such as nurses, will see an impact on their take home pay in January.

I oppose this. I believe it speaks to the ideology of Fine Gael. The Minister takes great offence when I mention ideology or beliefs, passions or principles.

Beliefs are better.

Whatever words he chooses, it is clear. That is the vein that runs through everything. In housing, the private sector can deal with it instead of putting the necessary resources into building houses. It is the same in health. Even with the new hospital being developed - a runaway project - it is decided to build a private hospital within the public hospital. That is the ideology. A party can stand on that platform and that is its right, but I completely oppose it. This shows clearly how the Minister, who tells us he does not have enough money to support the thousands of people who have been denied home help this year, has plenty of dosh for these guys. The Minister who tells us he does not have enough money to support children with special needs in terms of the additional resources they require has plenty of dosh for these guys. That is the sickening thing about all of this. That is the reality.

Many sectors of our society are crying out. Respite services are closed down in south Donegal. I get so angry when I have to attend meetings of parents of children and adults with intellectual disability who have to campaign and fight for their rights or the rights of their children. When we talk to the HSE, the Department of Education and Skills or to the Minister, time and again we are told there is a finite amount of resources. There is, but the problem is that the Minister is putting them in the wrong pockets. Respite services are closed and it is ridiculous that a fraction of the money the Minister is spending on this would open them overnight. There were 51 patients on trolleys in Letterkenny University Hospital yesterday and today there were 45. It is a war zone. It is ridiculous what the staff must go through, not to mind the disrespect to the patients who are suffering. Ten beds are lying empty in that hospital. They cannot be filled because of decisions on finances. There is no money for those beds to be opened. The patients are let lie on the hospital trolleys while the nurses and doctors are let deal with the crisis because the Minister must look after this priority in this section of the Finance Bill. He must ensure that these 1,000 people, some of whom are earning more than €3 million, are looked after. That is the priority of this Government, and that is what is disgusting about the priorities of this Government.

I appreciate that we have foreign direct investment and that we need it. My county has been privileged to have Merck Sharp & Dohme, MSD, for 40 years, Boston Scientific and many more. We hear about the cost of job creation and the costs for small businesses trying to get incentives. They cannot get any of them, but there are huge incentives for these companies to come here. Let me put it on the record that I support the current corporation tax, but this is something different. It is very hard for the ordinary working man or woman or, indeed, the self-employed people who are being persecuted by the Revenue Commissioners at present. We have these loopholes for people who earn up to €3 million. We know it is a small number but they are all quite well-to-do and have a good income. This makes it even better. Why discriminate so negatively against our own employees, employers and people, especially when we are so strapped for cash across a wide area? The Minister keeps throwing money into the black hole down the road. I do not believe he will ever make a hospital out of it. One cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. When there are bad foundations, it can go only one way.

It is time we examined some of these loopholes and incentives. Certainly, we must be attractive but do we need such inequity in the system against our PAYE workers and self-employed people? They are the people we should be seriously trying to support. I met a hotelier yesterday and he is simply browned off with all the taxes, insurance and everything else. Nothing is being tackled. There are only extra rates, water charges, the minimum wage continuously increasing and so forth. People are just walking away from being employers and from their employees. Many of them have different incomes. This provision certainly should be changed somewhat.

The Minister rails against amendments of all sorts that would bring in extra funding. I will not repeat everything Deputy Pearse Doherty said but we see the carnage in our emergency departments. There is no mental health bed in Tipperary. There is an epidemic of suicides and no services. Nurses are not approved. In fairness, the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, and many others are doing their best. The unfairness is chronic. Deputy Fitzmaurice and I tabled an amendment on Committee Stage and the Minister rejected it. It proposed a land tax on conglomerates that own more than 500 acres of land. It was laughed out of the way. These people can buy everything. They have endless money. They can control vast swathes of land, not only in Tipperary but also in Wicklow, Kildare and throughout the country. A farmer with 500 acres should be well able to survive on a family farm that would make up five farms. The Minister turned his nose up at it. He also did so last year, the year before and the year before that. There is some inherent reason that he will not tackle or challenge these fat cats. We recognise that they provide employment too. They have excellent prowess in the racing industry. However, they should be made to pay their tax. The ordinary small farmer cannot buy a piece of land.

This is more of the same. We treat our own people with disdain but we allow these people to ride roughshod over us, day in and day out, without explanation. It beggars belief, and especially when the Minister is strapped for cash in so many areas, be it orthodontic treatment or treatment for cataracts. Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Collins brought a bus load of people to the North for treatment - "go to Belfast or go blind". It is pathetic. The Government is on its merry way again with the broadband. It is another Ponzi scheme. It will probably end up in the courts and come crashing down around it.

I support the amendment because this is inherently unfair and is going on for too long. Surely we can make some adjustment so there can be a sense of fair play for our native workers. We are not giving this to other people who come here from different lands and are expected to work to keep our economy going. We are not giving them any such incentives. Why be so selective for one group of people?

Most of the schemes like this are the product of various large accounting and legal firms producing packages which they can then sell around the world to people in the appropriate income bracket. That is one of the principal reasons the scheme in Ireland has failed to be capped properly and now results in a significant difference in tax treatment between somebody who is fully resident for tax purposes and somebody who is brought into this structure by an accounting or legal firm. Ultimately, many of the recruiting firms end up paying as much in service costs to the legal and accounting advisers for these schemes as the individual may end up paying in tax. However, the notion of equality in the tax system for people on similar levels of income is undermined, particularly when it goes into very high income figures as it has done now.

Second, at the beginning of this Dáil, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight was established for the specific purpose of shining a light on the details, consequences and arguments for and against various tax arrangements. The Report Stage amendments before the House tonight contain a series of proposals for reports on areas such as the special assignee relief programme, SARP. The Government should be enabling the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and its officials, because it has an official status to carry out these reports and be clearly enabled to do so by the Department of Finance and other relevant Departments.

I have a long-standing Private Member's Bill before the Dáil, which I would be delighted if the Government would take over, to establish a standing commission on taxation. It would examine the outcomes, fairness or unfairness, and costs of various elements of the tax code. If there was a development in the tax code, as often happens, and that development was used more or costed more than originally envisaged, there would be, as a matter of policy, an ongoing examination of its impact, including the loss of tax to the Exchequer, which means less money for education, health and the Defence Forces. This is done in many jurisdictions as a matter of policy.

The Committee on Budgetary Oversight has produced very valuable publications on the costs of various tax breaks and tax arrangements, and this has been very useful, but from an overall policy perspective, that should be built into the system. Ultimately, everyone is paying some form of tax, particularly people in the PAYE sector, and it is understandable and correct that it should be perfectly easy to analyse who is getting special deals or arrangements and, more importantly, what these cost. It is understandable that if a much sought-after employee is moving to Ireland, he or she would get some arrangements to recognise the costs of moving and establishing his or her household and so on. However, for it to go on and on over a long period is not justified. The people who sell these schemes will always want to keep them for as long as they can, and forever if possible. The details should be published in full annually, and the best way to do that would be through the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. Its officials should be given access to the information and it would be published regularly.

At one time we gave massive tax breaks to people who owned racehorses, and we have done that with all sorts of things. Gradually over a period, we decided either to eliminate or reduce these enormous blanket tax breaks. These were not small tax breaks in relatively modest levels of expenses. There is a case for permanent oversight of tax. Revenue is not the body to do this. Its job is largely the collection of revenue and the establishment of the tax base. Neither is the Department of Finance the institution to do this. Whoever is Minister for Finance has a particular vested political interest. In Ireland and many other places, there is a growing sense of inequality which undermines the very basis of our democracies. Yesterday, Lidl announced it would pay all its employees the living wage. I assume Aldi will follow.

The Deputy's time is up.

However, we see no sign of a move towards equalisation or equality. That is why people feel so undervalued. A teacher gets nothing like these breaks.

Time is up, Deputy.

A nurse does not get anything like these breaks. They often work much harder than the people who are brought to Ireland on the basis of the sale of these schemes by professional companies.

If no other Member wishes to come in, we will return to the Minister to respond.

First, to respond to Deputy Burton, we publish a report on SARP each year that makes all the information available insofar as it can be without breaching taxpayer confidentiality. Second, I heard a figure of €3 million raised by two Deputies. I remind the House that last year I introduced a cap of €1 million. While €1 million is still a vast sum of money, I introduced a cap that will apply this year for new entrants and to existing people in the scheme from next year. While acknowledging that €1 million is still a vast amount for an individual to earn, I introduced the cap because I was aware of the concerns that citizens and Members of the House could have on tax equity. Third, the main reason I seek to maintain it in the tax code is an appreciation of the reality I see week after week, month after month, where other countries have the same scheme, but one that is significantly more lucrative and, in some cases, more attractive than the SARP scheme. Those countries use their schemes to compete for jobs, some of which are currently located in Ireland.

I understand the House's concerns about equity and the degree of relief that is available to some, but if I return to the figure used earlier, the €100,000 relief is available to an individual earning €1 million, which is the cap for the scheme. Let us also acknowledge that the same individual will also pay approximately €300,000 in taxation, which he or she should. The reason the scheme is there in the first place is not because of a desire I have to grant tax relief to individuals who are already earning well but because of the potential for them to be associated with jobs and economic activity in Ireland that in turn contribute to the public services we want to provide for our citizens. The figures in the last report made available, which includes all the figures for 2017, point to the fact that the individuals involved in the scheme and the companies for which they work paid more than €2.5 billion in corporation tax, employed 155,000, and were responsible for the payment of €1.9 billion in PAYE taxes. I am not making the case that all that income and all that return is entirely due to the scheme. I would not make that case because it could not be made, but I am making the point that a scheme like this is a small part of what we need to offer to ensure that particular kinds of jobs are located in Ireland that in turn have significant indirect effects.

People who do not like the scheme and who do not want it to be continued should acknowledge that other countries have similar schemes and that their equivalents of IDA Ireland would use the absence of this scheme to look at how jobs currently located here could be moved from Ireland. That is the sole reason a scheme like this is justified in its maintenance, albeit with a cap of a figure lower than has been acknowledged in this debate.

The point has been made and the Minister knows we disagree. There are many talented people who have left or who are leaving this country. We need those people in our construction sector, public services and a number of other areas where there are quite serious labour shortages. The reason many people do not return to Ireland is due to the fact that the cost of accommodation or that wages are just not high enough. Where is the incentive for those individuals? We are giving this incentive to people who must earn more than €75,000 per year, excluding bonuses, commissions, etc., that they also get. A person can only get this if he or she is massively well paid. Some of these people are so massively well paid it boggles the mind. One would wonder if anybody really deserves to be paid that much. Not only are these people paid massive amounts, but we are giving them a tax relief that no ordinary worker would ever hope or expect to get. Where is the incentive for the people who earn less than €75,000, particularly when we desperately need them? The Minister argues that we need these people and that this measure is justified in order to get them. What will he do to attract the people who would earn less €75,000? What incentive is being given to them? That inequity makes this totally unacceptable. No amount of argument about the benefit arising from this or that company to the country can justify that inequity. Any point that can be made by the Minister about the contribution those companies make to this country could equally be made about all the people who earn less than €75,000. Do those who earn less than €75,000 not make an equally important contribution to this country and its economy?

The Minister took issue with the figure of €3 million. He is correct in stating that there is a cap so this reduction will only apply on earnings up to €1 million. This is where the benefit of €111,000 arises. Perhaps the Minister does not fully understand what we are saying. In some cases, these individuals who are getting the benefit of a €111,000 reduction in taxable income earn in excess of €3 million. Our point is that some of those to whom we are referring are extremely wealthy individuals. We do not have the information indicating how much more than €3 million they earn; they could earn €10 million or €15 million or it could be a couple of euro over €3 million, but they are extremely wealthy. There are eight people earning more than €3 million according to the Revenue Commissioners' figures. There are 23 people earning between €1 million and €3 million. These individuals are all getting the benefit of a €111,000 reduction in taxable income under this section that they might not otherwise get.

The Minister stated that these people are associated with a country and the public good. The janitor keeping our hospitals clean and who ensures infection control because floors are mopped and utensils are clean is also providing a public good, and it is possibly a greater good. The person driving a bus, taking us on public transport from A to B, also provides a public good. The teacher teaching a child to read is also providing a public good. What is happening to them? Will they be able to write off 30% of their income against tax? Not a chance. On 1 January they are facing a flat-rate expenses change, meaning their take-home pay will be reduced. That is the reality and the problem.

I acknowledge the extraordinary importance of the work done by janitors and teachers. They truly are the definition of the public good and the work they do is essential to the public services provided in our hospitals and schools. I understand the clarification made by Deputy Pearse Doherty. Incidentally, I am never offended by what he says and I wish to put him at ease if that is a concern. He made reference to €3 million on many occasions and I felt it appropriate to remind him of the change I made last year when I introduced the cap of €1 million.

I can speak to the immensely important work done by janitors, teachers and nurses. We are doing this in order to be in a position where, for example, we can continue to ensure teachers are on a path to wage restoration. Janitors have already had wages restored compared with where we were in the crisis period. We must ensure we have the tax revenue to do this. Having considered this scheme in detail, I have reached the conclusion - I am accountable to the House for it - that in the absence of or significant reduction in the scheme, which the Deputy wishes to implement, as is his right, certain forms of jobs in our country would be put at risk. That could create an indirect risk that I am concerned would be big. It is my judgment after consultation with IDA Ireland and not the financial services companies referred to by Deputy Burton. I have heard all the Deputies in this House regularly give recognition and credit to IDA Ireland. I need to ensure because of the world we are in rather than the world I wish at times we were in that a scheme like this continues to be merited.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 11, to delete lines 16 to 21 and substitute the following:

"company, and

(b) whose business consists wholly or mainly of the holding of shares only in the following (and no other companies), namely, its qualifying subsidiary or subsidiaries and where it has a relevant subsidiary or subsidiaries, in that subsidiary or in each of them;",".

We discussed this on Committee Stage. Although I will not labour the point, I wanted to raise it again on Report Stage to see if there has been any evolution in the thinking of the Minister or his Department. This is a technical matter relating to the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, scheme and the changes introduced as part of this Finance Bill. It is fair to say they have been broadly welcomed. The matter I raised on Committee Stage relates to the definition of a holding company.

As I pointed out on Committee Stage, it is common for a new business to start as a single trading entity and then, as the business expands into new territories or delivers new products, it can become necessary from a commercial perspective to incorporate new entities. Very often, such new entities are established as subsidiaries of the original trading companies. As that type of business grows, the original trading company remains as is and becomes both the holder of shares in newer trading subsidiaries as well as being a trader. These types of businesses do not typically put in place a company whose sole or main business is to hold shares and their stage of development may not warrant a holding company or it may not be commercially necessary to do so. The complexity and cost involved in undertaking a group restructure just to put a holding company in place would also be a factor for these types of businesses. The concern is that the restrictive holding company definition that continues in the Finance Bill as it stands will exclude some small businesses for which the KEEP scheme could be a very positive change. This is a key issue.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue, which we discussed on Committee Stage. As he was good enough to acknowledge, the changes we made in this area were broadly welcomed by the SME sector. These particular changes followed on from consultation we had with the SME sector and that my officials had with them before the summer.

We have followed up on this issue in the context of holding companies. This amendment refers to holding companies and either it or a later amendment raises the issue about whether returns are needed to be declared by companies in order to access this relief. We have not got the feedback to date that further change is required in the Bill in the context of the areas to which the Deputy refers. However, if that were to change and if after the implementation of these changes next year, we are still not delivering the objectives we need in the KEEP scheme, I am certainly open to examining whether further change in respect of the scheme would be needed. Deputies Michael McGrath, Pearse Doherty and others made the point that access to and drawdown in respect of the KEEP scheme have fallen short of the objectives we set. We are seeking to make the scheme more open and to ensure that it is used to a greater degree. The changes we have made are going in the right direction and will deliver that objective. While we have not received feedback, we followed up on the points raised, If the position were to change, I would certainly be open to examining whether further change in the scheme is needed.

I acknowledge that he purpose of the changes being introduced in the Bill are to make the KEEP scheme more attractive. It provides significant potential to help smaller businesses to attract and retain key staff. That is a difficulty for them, particularly in a strong labour market where they are competing with large companies which perhaps can offer greater remuneration packages.

On the point the Minister made about the consultation day, my understanding is that the discussion centred around the issue of the number of subsidiaries and not on the question of whether the holding company could trade. If I take what he said in good faith, namely, that this will be kept under review, it is important that this will be done because the KEEP scheme, in its current form, has not worked. When we have fewer than 90 employees benefiting from a national scheme, clearly, it has not delivered on the promise that we all accept it has. I will not press the amendment. However, I will hold the Minister to his commitment to keep this under review and that if a further change to the definition, in a technical way, is required, a vehicle will be found to deliver on that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 15, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

“Report on key employee engagement programme

11. Within 6 months of the passing of this Act, the Minister shall produce a report on the implementation of the key employee engagement programme.”.

I have very little to say on this amendment other than that it has not been a particularly effective scheme. There are better ways to support SMEs. If the idea is that when shares become valuable the Government gives tax breaks for those shares, that is doing it the wrong way around but it is not really working in any event in terms of the benefits that have arisen. This is the wrong way to encourage or promote small and medium enterprise and it suffers from some of the same flaws as other tax reliefs the Government provides on the basis of either high earnings or profit. The Minister is well aware of my opinions on those reliefs. It is on that basis we should rethink this and scrap this scheme but I will not labour point.

As the Deputy was brief, I will also be brief. Given that I am sure he supports workers owning the practice and means of production, I would have thought it might be possible for him to see the attraction of ensuring workers are able to benefit from the value of the company they are in. I take his point, if I understand him correctly, on whether we need taxation to incentivise the issue of share option, I do not believe we do. I know from talking to many SMEs in the technology sector that a way in which they can ensure what they are offering their workers is competitive with what the very large companies are offering is through the development of share and share options schemes. The KEEP scheme is a support to them in doing that. However, I accept that it might be difficult to invoke Karl Marx in making an argument for share option schemes but, nonetheless, I thought I would give it a try.

How stands the amendment?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 20, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

“Tax credit claim

17. A tax credit can be claimed where a person works remotely.”.

I tabled this amendment, the subject of which is topical today as it is the day we signed the contract for the national broadband plan, to try to incentivise and encourage people to work remotely. There are major benefits for the economy and society if we can encourage people to work remotely. One of the key things we need to do in the current housing crisis is to try to maximise the use of the existing housing stock, the 1.7 million houses across the country. Some of those houses are not in areas of high demand. Many of them are in parts of rural Ireland, including my constituency. On the other hand, the cost to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government of a serviced site is €30,714. If we can get someone to move out of an urban area where there is high demand for housing into a rural vacant house, that in itself would save the Exchequer €30,714 in one less serviced site needing to be provided.

If we can encourage a person in rural Ireland to reduce his or her weekly car travel by 300 km per week, that would reduce carbon emissions by 1.7 tonnes per annum. If we were to use the Government's public service spending code and the average cost of carbon over the next ten years, that would be a net saving to the Exchequer of €122. We need to take pressure off Dublin and relocate jobs into rural communities, taking pressure off housing, roads, schools and much of our infrastructure and at the same time we would fill a skills shortage in many parts of rural Ireland. This amendment, which encourages people to work remotely, provides for a win-win situation in taking pressure off the congested infrastructure particularly in Dublin but also in other cities.

When we discussed this topic on Committee Stage, the Minister made the point that tax expenditure guidelines issued by his Department stipulate that the key rationale for Government intervention by way of tax expenditure should be the existence of market failure and that a tax based incentive should be more efficient than a direct expenditure measure. We have market failure in terms of the housing situation. All of us in this House accept that. We need to come up with some innovative solutions that take pressure off the housing stock, particularly in our urban areas, and encourage people to relocate to rural communities. As a result of the Eir 300,000 build-out of broadband, the reality is that there are quite a number of rural villages around Ireland that have access to 1,000 Mbps high-speed broadband that have vacant houses and are struggling to maintain student numbers in local primary schools.

This is a win-win situation for everyone. As the Minister indicated on Committee Stage, we should be looking at incentives that are more efficient that direct expenditure measures. The point I have made is that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government spends an average of €30,714 on a serviced site while there are vacant homes in communities in many parts of rural Ireland that have been denuded of their populations. Surely it makes sense to put in place an incentive to encourage people to go back to those rural communities. I accept that someone who was born and bred in Dublin is not going to relocate to rural Ireland, but I will give the Minister a practical example. County Roscommon has the highest level of participation in third level education in the whole of Ireland. Despite this, the number of graduates employed there is the lowest of any county. The objective is to put in place a clear incentive to encourage people to relocate to rural communities in order to work remotely, servicing the businesses in Dublin and the other cities. This is a win-win situation for everyone.

Remote working or e-working is defined by the Revenue Commissioners as when an employee works from his or her home on either a full-time or part-time basis, with the remainder of time spent in the normal place of work or working while on the move, with visits to the normal place of work. E-working involves working for substantial periods outside the normal place of work, logging on to a work computer remotely, sending and receiving email, data or files remotely, or developing ideas, products and services. E-working does not apply to workers who bring work home outside of their normal working hours.

While working remotely does not entitle e-workers to a tax credit, there is a Revenue administrative practice, which has operated since the early 2000s, which takes account of certain expenditure incurred by e-workers in the performance of their duties of employment from home including, for example, additional heating and electricity costs. Employers can make payments of up to €3.20 per day to their employees without deducting PAYE, PRSI or USC. This does not, however, prevent an employee who works remotely from making a specific expenses claim to Revenue where the actual expenditure incurred is in excess of this amount. These deductions are allowed to employees under the provisions of section 114 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which provides for tax deductions incurred wholly, exclusively, and necessarily in the performance of the duties of employment. Furthermore, employers may provide equipment to an e-worker for business use without the application of benefit-in-kind where private use of that equipment by the employee is minimal. Examples of such equipment include computers, laptops, printers, scanners, telephones, broadband, office furniture, and software which allows the e-worker to work from home. If an employee uses part of his or her home for e-working, the exemption from capital gains tax regarding the principal private residence will not be affected.

Having regard to the arrangements operated by Revenue, which I have just outlined, and to the fact that the introduction of a tax credit as proposed by the Deputy could potentially increase the proportion of earners who are exempt from income tax and result in a narrowing of the income tax base, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I listened to what the Minister said. As he knows, the Government announced earlier today that we will be creating 300 broadband hotspots across the country. These are locations from which people will be encouraged to work remotely. They are not people's homes. They are for people who do not have access to high-speed broadband at home. In light of the savings as compared with spending on serviced sites, the reductions in carbon emissions and the reduced pressure on infrastructure in Dublin and other cities, we need to look at this again. Now that we have high-speed broadband going to every single home and premises in Ireland, we should be actively encouraging remote working. In the context of what is happening now and of looking at innovative ways to take some of the pressure of the housing, road and water infrastructure in this city, I ask the Minister to look at this issue in the context of budget 2021.

In truth, I do not know if will be in a position to commit to anything in respect of budget 2021.

I am not asking for a commitment but the Minister's officials can be working on it.

They sure can be. The Deputy has heard my rationale for believing that this particular change is not merited. It is because of the array of supports already in place. One could go so far as to make the case, given that it has just committed to a massive capital investment programme for a national broadband plan to facilitate working from home, that the State has made the intervention required and that overlaying this with a scheme of tax credits is not required. That said, as always, we want to find ways to encourage work and entrepreneurial activity outside of our cities. The Minister of State, Deputy Moran, has reminded me of the work under way with regard to enterprise hubs. This is driven by local authorities outside of our cities. I have no doubt at all that as we complete this Finance Bill and, soon afterwards, begin work on the next, the Department of Finance will look at any additional changes that may be needed to support jobs and economic activity outside of our larger cities.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 20, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"Report on flat rate expenses

17. The Minister shall, within 3 months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the review by the Revenue Commissioners on flat rate expenses and ways in which low and medium income earners can be protected from any change that may arise.”.

This amendment relates to the flat-rate expenses allowance system. We have had a number of opportunities to discuss this in recent weeks, initially on Committee Stage and then during parliamentary questions to the Minister for Finance last week. I am not sure if he has any update at this point. It is worth reminding ourselves of the scale of this system and the quantum of money involved. I know that 2017 is the latest year for which we have data. There are 53 categories of employment affected and 134 individual flat-rate expenses allowances. More than 600,000 employees currently avail of these allowances at a gross cost of €163 million. The net cost, by way of reduction of tax, is €48 million. We are talking about a wide range of workers including miners, shop assistants, nurses, firefighters, and porters. If this system changes adversely, they are looking at a potential unwelcome surprise in their pay packets come January, although we hope that will not come to pass.

I assume that Revenue, as part of this review, will take into account the fact that changing to a different system whereby employees have to submit claims individually for expenses incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of duties will represent a cost to it. Changing from a system of agreed allowances for particular categories to assist the people in those categories to one in which up to 600,000 individual employees will have to submit claims will involved significant costs for the public purse. We have discussed this in recent weeks and the Minister agreed to write to Revenue for an update. I hope he will provide an update to the House at the earliest opportunity. The purpose of tabling the amendment and seeking the report is really to facilitate a debate on Report Stage.

I have written to the Revenue Commissioners and anticipate a response from them imminently. When I get it, I will make the details from that available to the House. I am aware of the issues raised by Deputy Michael McGrath and the number of workers who would be affected by the measure. I ask the Deputy not to press the amendment. He could do this in anticipation of me making the Deputies who have raised the issue aware of the information, when it becomes available to me from the Revenue Commissioners.

It appears that we will just be getting the information from Revenue Commissioners as to when they are going to implement this. They are saying that they will push ahead with this on 1 January 2020. The substantive issue is the impact it will have on 600,000 workers. What assessment, if any, has the Minister carried out with regard to these changes? I have said many times at the committee that I have huge regard for the Revenue Commissioners an organisation. The Revenue Commissioners operate and implement the law as we in this House decide it should be operated and implemented. The question for the Minister and for the Government is whether they believe that the changes around the flat-rate expenses are warranted. Does the Government understand that this will have a significant effect on low-income workers and particularly in those employments, such as, for example, Tara Mines, that would receive allowances? This is a huge issue and I am sure they have contacted the Minister as they have contacted Sinn Féin and our local representatives there. The measure will also affect people working in the hospitality and education sectors, along with nurses, mechanics and plumbers. It will affect a huge number of individuals. There is a lack of awareness out there in terms of what is happening. The substantive issue I am interested in hearing about is not about whether Revenue will postpone it for a month or two. Revenue is clear on that unless the Minister has some other information that Revenue is looking not to push ahead.

The Taoiseach, when he stood where the Minister is now, in response to my party leader stated that the Government would ensure that this was fair. The Taoiseach made comments to suggest that, before any changes were to take place, the Government would ensure that any changes would be fair and looked on by it. Is that the intention or will the Minister be taking a hands-off approach to this in allowing the Revenue Commissioners to do what they want to do? It is up to us to decide on this or to amend the Finance Bill to ensure that while the regime may need to be tweaked in some areas the protections for low-income workers are there with regard to the flat-rate expenses.

Given that he has had direct contact from those who will potentially be affected, the Minister understands that there is genuine concern. This is an administrative scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners. It is not legislative and we do not have any direct say. Given that there are only a number of weeks until Christmas and in view of the fact the Revenue Commissioners' website is stating that any changes will come into effect on 1 January, I am concerned and I want meaningful engagement. I want the finance committee to have an opportunity to dig into this, to look at the report and to examine it in detail.

In his replies to parliamentary questions, the Minister has indicated that each category of the flat-rate expense allowance system is being examined separately. Given the number of categories involved, this could be a very extensive report. We are told in replies to parliamentary questions that the purpose is "to ensure that the expenses granted to each employment category remain justified and appropriate to modern day employments and work practices". This could hit the net pay, or the take-home pay, of these workers within weeks. They will look to all of us for answers. It is important that we hear back from Revenue at an early date - within the next week or so - and that we know what we are looking at and have an opportunity to examine this. It would give the House an opportunity to bring forward any alternative proposals it might want.

I am aware of the impact that this change will have on those who are affected by it. I agree that the House needs to be informed in a timely manner on how the issue stands. I was asked if there is any plan to remove the current collection arrangements for flat-rate expenses. The answer is that there is not. While I am aware of the effect this will have on those who are impacted by the change I also need to respect the independence of the Revenue Commissioners. They are aware of the issues and concerns around how many people will be affected by this. I understand the effect it will have on take-home pay. After I have engaged with the Revenue Commissioners in respect of it and when there is information or a view on the matter, I will ensure that, either through a discussion in the Chamber or through the finance committee, the House will have time to understand what could happen.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 22, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

“(2) For the purpose of clarity such provisions will also apply to businesses with charitable 2 status providing emergency medical services in the State but registered in the UK, which shall be required to re-register in the State following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”.

We discussed the matter to which this amendment relates at length on Committee Stage. The issue has moved on since then but, in a nutshell, the Irish Community Rapid Response charity runs the second air ambulance service based in County Cork. The Minister will be aware that over the weekend we heard that the Irish Community Rapid Response's spare helicopter, which is based in a hangar in Cork, will now be relocated to the midlands to provide cover for the Defence Forces and the Air Corps when the latter's helicopter is taken out of service in order to facilitate the training of staff.

A difficulty arises whereby Irish Community Rapid Response purchased its helicopter service from a UK registered company. That is all well and good at the moment because it is currently exempt from the charging of VAT in respect of that service. If Brexit happens and the company has to re-register in Ireland, then it will be obliged to raise an additional €2 million per annum to provide the air ambulance service in the southern part of the island, which, as the Minister will be aware, fulfils a commitment that was set out in the programme for Government and which now also provides support to the Air Corps in the midlands region.

The air ambulance service has been a vital service in supporting the national ambulance service across the State. The operation in Cork has conducted 50 missions a month on average, which is a significant number of missions, since it commenced operation in Cork. All I am looking for is that the status quo would remain post Brexit and that this charity would not be put in a position where it has to pay an additional bill of €2 million for VAT as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter again. I know that it is of real concern to him, to the organisation involved and, of course, to his constituents, for whom this very important service is provided.

Notwithstanding the appreciation I have for the issue and the way in which the Deputy has raised it, I have questioned it again since he raised it on Committee Stage and I cannot agree to the amendment. Deputy Naughten will know why that is the case. I cannot agree to it because were this charity to register in Ireland, it would then, for the purposes of VAT, be required to be treated differently from other charities registered here.

We cannot allow that. All charities registered have to be treated in the same way by virtue of the VAT they pay on services. If I were to agree to Deputy Denis Naughten's amendment, it would mean that if the charity was to become registered in Ireland, it would have to be treated in a different way to charities already registered here or that might register here in future. From a tax policy point of view, and a legal perspective I am sure, that cannot happen. I appreciate why the Deputy is raising the issue. This is a matter of concern to him and his constituents but the answer to does not lie in our tax code. It would be wrong of me to create the impression that it does.

To clarify, Irish Community Rapid Response is registered as a charity in Ireland. That is not the issue. The issue is that it buys a service from Sloane Helicopters, which is based in the United Kingdom. This operates very well and a model has been developed on this basis. After Brexit, however, in order to operate in an EU member state, Sloane Helicopters will have to be registered in an EU member state, and that member state would likely be Ireland because. It makes sense that as it is providing a service here it would be registered here. As a result, it would have to charge Irish Community Rapid Response VAT. The point I am making is the organisation is providing a service. It is a charity that is fundraising throughout the country. It provides a service that fulfils a clear commitment that was given in the programme for Government. It has not asked for any State financial contribution towards this. It is also using its second helicopter, which is based in the midlands, to support the State service to the Air Corps. As a result of Brexit, and through no fault of its own, in order for the company to be regulated and operate in this jurisdiction, it will have to re-register and charge this Irish-based charity VAT. The charity is being penalised as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. It is a charity that assists the State and the Air Corps and fulfils a commitment in the programme for Government.

I take the Deputy's clarification. Of course he is right, it is the company. However, that just emphasises my point regarding a level playing field for companies paying tax. What the amendment is looking for is that a charity would not pay VAT when buying goods from a UK registered company that becomes registered in Ireland. How can that be fair to every other charity or company that pays VAT? We cannot provide a VAT exemption for companies just because they are no longer registered in the UK and become registered in Ireland. Were we to do this, it would ensure that there was no level playing field for all the companies that are registered in Ireland and must charge VAT on their services.

The point I am making is that the company will be forced to register here. It will not have a choice. To operate here after the UK exits the European Union it will be forced to do this. This is where the difficulty arises. As a result, we are looking at a charity having an additional financial burden of €2 million a year.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 30, line 16, to delete "10 years" and substitute "7 years".

On foot of the 2018 Indecon review of the employment investment incentive, EII, and following on from the priority package of measures I implemented in last year's Finance Bill, I have brought forward a number of enhancements to the EII scheme to increase its effectiveness and attractiveness, at the level of the investor and the level of the company.

On Committee Stage, it was agreed to increase the current annual investment limit from €150,000 to €250,000 for those who invest for four years, and to provide for a €500,000 annual investment limit in the case of those who invest for a minimum period of ten years. Following further consideration, I am bringing forward this Report Stage amendment to provide that the new €500,000 investment limit be available to those prepared to invest for a seven year period, rather than the ten years that I announced on Committee Stage. While under the proposed new arrangements the €500,000 investment limit will provide higher tax relief up front for those who invest for the longer period of at least ten years, its utility is potentially reduced by the fact that an investor could get a similar benefit by making two successive investments of €250,000 over a shorter period of eight years. The amendment is intended to address this point.

For the information of Deputies, the annual investor limit for the UK investment scheme is £1 million and the equivalent German INVEST scheme has an annual investor limit of €250,000. In both cases, the investment period is a minimum of three years.

I welcome these amendments. The EII scheme has needed reform and improvement. It provides vital funding in the early stages of life for many businesses and it is important that we make it as attractive as possible so those businesses are given the opportunity to scale up and have access to the level of funding they require to achieve this. The changes in amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, combined with the other changes will, I hope, help to improve the overall attractiveness of the scheme. I also hope Revenue will have adequate resources to ensure the scheme can be administered efficiently. Issues have been raised with regard to turnaround times and my understanding is that they have improved. I am not getting the complaints now that I was getting 12 to 18 months ago about the administrative operation of the EII scheme. I welcome the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 30, line 19, to delete "10 years" and substitute "7 years".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 30, to delete line 24 and substitute "paragraph (a).",".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 32, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"Report on wealth and higher incomes taxes

26. Within 6 months of the passing of this Act, the Minister shall produce a report on establishing a wealth tax and increased taxes on high income earners with view to achieving a more equitable distribution of wealth and income.".

Something most people do not know, because they do not feel it in their own lives, is just how incredibly wealthy this country is. Most people are struggling on their moderate or low earnings. They find it difficult to pay their bills and their rent, to pay for childcare and to put their children to school. Most people struggle.

They would hope to imagine that the way in which the economic growth that they helped generate and is at record levels would equally benefit everyone who contributed to it. That is not what happens, though. They struggle when some others are getting very wealthy.

Given that I must now move the debate's adjournment, we will take that point up again tomorrow.

Debate adjourned.