Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (184)

Mattie McGrath


184. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend section 469 (1)(f) of the Taxes Consolidation Act (1997) to delete the words, "or similar treatment prescribed by a practitioner", and to leave the word, "Physiotherapy", to ensure that extra costs are not imposed on physiotherapy patients who have not been referred by their general practitioner, hospital accident and emergency or medical consultant and to ensure that his commitment to the provision of health care in the primary care setting is protected and to ensure that they meet their goal of meeting 90% of health care needs through the primary care setting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12904/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Income tax relief in respect of health expenses is allowable in accordance with section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. This legislation provides for tax relief for health expenses incurred in the provision of health care. Health care is defined for the purposes of that legislation as the prevention, diagnosis, alleviation or treatment of an ailment, injury, infirmity, defect or disability and includes care received by a woman in respect of pregnancy. Health care does not include routine ophthalmic or dental treatment. The section provides that tax relief must be either for the costs of the services of a practitioner, defined as a person registered on the register established under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, or diagnostic procedures carried out on the advice of a practitioner, which includes “physiotherapy or similar treatment prescribed by a practitioner”. Eligibility for tax relief is limited to expenses relating to treatment considered necessary and appropriate by a qualified practitioner.

Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 consolidated all previous legislation pertaining to relief for health expenses, in particular section 12 of Finance Act 1967 which introduced the relief in the first instance. This section also required that physiotherapy or similar treatment be prescribed by a practitioner before qualifying for relief. This requirement has, therefore, been part of the qualifying criteria since the introduction of relief for health expenses and I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that guidance and instructions to staff have remained unchanged in this regard.

For 2010 the cost of tax relief for health expenses was €127 million and was availed of by 368,000 individuals who had sufficient income to benefit from a claim. There is no specific breakdown in these figures of the costs related to physiotherapy.

The costs of the relief, if self-referral for physiotherapy was allowed, would be unquantifiable but it would be expected to increase the overall cost to the Exchequer. While the Government supports measures to lower the cost of medical treatment which should in turn lower the costs of health care provision by the State, an amendment as requested by the Deputy, if passed, would inevitably lead to calls for other treatments to similarly qualify for relief, which would greatly increase the overall cost of the scheme. In addition, it would inevitably lead to self-diagnosis of ailments which could have dire consequences for patients where their own diagnosis proves incorrect and they have embarked on the wrong treatment in the absence of the correct medical advice.