The position is that the Universal Social Charge (USC) was introduced in Budget 2011 to replace the Income Levy and Health Levy. It was a necessary measure to widen the tax base, remove poverty traps and raise revenue to reduce the budget deficit. The USC is a tax payable on all gross income. However, there are a number of exemptions and reliefs from the USC. There is a lower exemption limit, which from 1 January 2012 is €10,036 per annum, €193 per week. In addition, individuals in receipt of a full medical card or aged 70 years and over are not liable to the top rates of USC if their income is not exceeding €60,000 per annum.
In addition, it is important to point out that payments from the Department of Social Protection are exempt from the USC. Furthermore, such payments will not be taken in to account in determining if an individual has exceeded the €10,036 threshold.
Finally, the introduction of further tax reliefs on the lines you suggest could not be justified given the current budgetary position and the need to provide equity between all citizens based on their level of income. As the Deputy will appreciate, I receive numerous requests for the introduction of new tax reliefs and the extension of existing ones. The Deputy will also appreciate that I must be mindful of the public finances and the many demands on the Exchequer. Tax reliefs, no matter how worthwhile in themselves, reduce the tax base and make general reform of the tax system that much more difficult.