Departmental Expenditure

Questions (135)

Robert Troy

Question:

135. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the cost of drivers of each vehicle assigned to him and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; the mileage and other costs claimed in respect of each since March 2011; the overall yearly costs of ministerial cars in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12465/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The total mileage costs claimed by Ministers of State assigned to my Department is provided in the following table:

Name

Jan 2011 - end February 2013

Minister of State, P. Kehoe

€25,220.84

Minister of State, L. Creighton

Nil

I have been provided with a Garda car under the Ministerial transport scheme and do not use a private car for official purposes. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade pay mileage expenses in relation to Minister of State Creighton.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (136)

Robert Troy

Question:

136. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the number of credit cards issued to staff and Ministers in his Department; the total costs of each card since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12484/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

In March 2011 my Department had 14 credit cards in use by officials, this was reduced to 8 cards in 2012 and 7 cards in 2013. The following table provides details of the total spend on each card from March 2011 to end February 2013.

Departmental credit cards are used for official purposes only. They are allocated to officials where the facility will be of practical use in meeting the requirements of official business, for example, to facilitate meeting of travel expenses and official entertainment while away from the office, the procurement of goods and services such as on-line conferences bookings, air travel, purchase of IT equipment and library supplies.

The use of official credit cards is closely monitored by the Department's Finance Unit. Expenditure must be supported by receipts submitted by card holders each month as part of the approval process for the associated expenditure. The allocation and use of official credit cards are reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to minimising the number of cards allocated

2011

Total Spend on Card

Official

€680.93

Former Taoiseach (Brian Cowen)

*Costs incurred prior to 9th March

€30.00

Principal Officer, Public Service Modernisation Division

€3,955.85

Head of Information Technology Unit

€400.15

Government Press Secretary

€5,510.46

Head of Library Services

€320.00

Private Secretary to the Government Chief Whip

€30.44

Principal Officer, Economic Division

€715.82

Special Advisor to the Taoiseach

€1,445.48

Assistant Secretary, European Affairs

€192.74

Head of Management Services Unit

€30.00

Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

€5,252.60

Finance Officer

€369.84

Assistant Secretary, Public Service Modernisation

€2,556.23

Private Secretary to Minister of State for European Affairs

2012

Total Spend on Card

Official

€1,499.38

Principal Officer, Constitutional Convention

€10,010.02

Head of Library Services

€7,476.29

Head of Information Technology Unit

€30.00

Private Secretary to Chief Whip

€143.43

Assistant Secretary, Economic, International and Northern Ireland

€1,269.80

Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

€12,168.55

Finance Officer

€543.08

Private Secretary to Minister of State for European Affairs

Jan to end February 2013

Total Spend on Card

Official

€367.55

Principal Officer, Constitutional Convention

€582.93

Head of Information Technology Unit

€900.30

Head of Library Services

€3,430.49

Finance Officer

€82.22

Private Secretary to Minister of State for European Affairs

€0.00

Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

€0.00

Private Secretary to Government Chief Whip

Human Rights Issues

Questions (137)

Finian McGrath

Question:

137. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will raise the case of a person (details supplied) with the US authorities. [12315/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers. As this is a bilateral consular issue between the US and the Cuban authorities, the Government has no standing in the matter.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (138, 139, 140, 141, 142)

Robert Troy

Question:

138. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the costs of providing hardware and software to his home and the homes of Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12368/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

139. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the costs of providing telephone in the homes of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12386/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

140. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the cost of telephones and ICT provided to the constituency offices including monthly phone bills of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12405/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

141. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any additional costs other than telephones, ICT and monthly phone bills are being paid to constituency offices by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12423/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

142. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of mobile phones in use by him, junior Ministers and politically appointed staff; the total costs of the mobile phones since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12441/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 to 142, inclusive, together.

No costs have been incurred by my Department in respect of the provision of ICT facilities at the homes of the Ministers of State. The Department provides me with a fax machine in my home for official business purposes. The cost of this service to date is €1,351, including installation.

My constituency office and that of the current Minister of State with responsibility for Trade and Development are each based in the Department. The standard range of Department ICT facilities are provided to each staff member in the constituency offices and include PC, telephone, print and fax services and appropriate software licences. The estimated annual average cost to the Department to provide ICT-related services is €750 per officer; the same such costs apply for Constituency Office staff. It is not possible to separate from the monthly telephone bills those costs specifically associated with the Constituency Offices. No other costs are associated with these offices other than normal office running costs such as utilities and furnishings.

The former Minister of State with responsibility for Trade and Development, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, was refunded €1,534 in respect of telephone costs and €1,319 was recouped to the Houses of the Oireachtas under the agreement with Government Departments for constituency office ICT facilities.

There are six mobile phones currently in use by me, the Ministers of State and politically appointed staff. The total cost of mobile telephony since March 2011 is €16,728 and includes purchase of mobile phone devices.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (143)

Robert Troy

Question:

143. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the cost of drivers of each vehicle assigned to him and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; the mileage and other costs claimed in respect of each since March 2011; the overall yearly costs of ministerial cars in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12459/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Listed in tabular format are the details of the cost of drivers for each Minister of State at my Department in the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. The figures reflect the motor travel allowances claimed for official travel undertaken, subject to guidelines as set out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Subsistence amounts paid to drivers and the salaries paid to the official drivers are also included on the table.

Once-off severance payments were made to drivers for Minister of State Roche and Minister of State Power in June 2011. These payments are not included in the salaries costs.

-

Mileage Costs

Subsistence costs for drivers

Salary costs

Minister of State

Dick Roche T.D.

2010 January to December

17,242

32,526

74,402

2011 January to March

3,370

3,439

13,425

Minister of State

Lucinda Creighton T.D.

2011 March to December

4,834

318

51,087

2012 January to December

9,597

1,058

73,099

2013 (to date)

Nil

Nil

13,930

Minister of State 

Peter Power T.D.

2010 January to December

9,145

18,728

70,931

2011 January to March

2,402

2,576

12,777

Minister of State

Jan O’Sullivan T.D.

2011 March to December

9,169

4,560

51,174

2012 January

820

1,252

Nil

Minister of State

Joe Costello T.D.

2012 January to December

1,549

Nil

Nil

2013 (to date)

Nil

Nil

Nil

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (144)

Robert Troy

Question:

144. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of credit cards issued to staff and Ministers in his Department; the total costs of each card since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12478/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department, which is responsible for Vote 27 (International Cooperation) and Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs), operates a restrictive policy for the use of corporate credit cards for official expenditure. There are currently 6 official credit cards in use by my Department in Ireland and 13 in use by Missions abroad. The use of official credit cards may be permitted for officials who, because of the nature of their work, need to make official payments by this method. Credit cards are typically used to make occasional flight and hotel bookings, for making on-line purchases where it represents better value for money and for making payments at short notice, where cash may not be acceptable or where invoicing arrangements cannot be put in place.

Their use is subject to the same authorisation and control procedures as other forms of payment and decisions to issue a card are made in response to identified business needs.

While credit card companies require that the accounts be operated by named authorised signatories, it must be stressed that in my Department credit cards are used exclusively for official purposes.

The following table sets out details of each of the cards issued to my Department and their associated costs.

Department of Foreign

Affairs and Trade HQ

No of cards

Issuer

Fees Charged

March 2011 to Date

Finance Unit

One

Visa

€60

Library

One

Visa

€60

Minister of State’s Office

One

Visa

€60

ICT Unit

One

Visa

€60

Finance Unit (DCD)

One

Visa

€61

Minister of State’s Office (DCD)

One

American Express

€100

Missions Abroad

 

 

 

Abu Dhabi

One

Visa NBAD

€55

Embassy, Berne

One

MasterCard

€158

Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union, Brussels

Four

Visa

€88

Canberra

One

 

0

Embassy, London

One

Visa

€61

Embassy, Mexico

One

American Express

€839

Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York

One

Visa Card

0

Embassy, Ottawa

One

American Express

€199

Embassy, Paris

One

Visa

€263

Embassy, Tokyo

One

Visa

€38

The credit card service providers are selected on a case by case basis by comparing the rates and terms offered by service providers to ensure best value for money.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

Questions (145, 149)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

145. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will take the lead through both funding and diplomacy in Irish Aid’s priority countries to guarantee safe spaces for community organisations, leaders and local people to advocate for their rights (details supplied). [12544/13]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

149. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will take the lead through both funding and diplomacy in Ireland’s aid programme in countries to guarantee safe spaces for community organisations, leaders, and their local people to advocate for their rights; (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13036/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 149 together.

I welcome the focus of this year’s Trócaire Lenten Campaign on the rights of citizens and community organisations to participate in and influence decisions that affect their lives. Civil society organisations play an important role in bringing citizens together to act collectively and participate in the development of their own countries and communities. They have a strong role to play in demanding better services from the state and holding governments to account.

In some developing countries, civil society organisations have come under increasing pressure in recent years as they seek to play their legitimate role in society. In these countries, dialogue with civil society organisations is limited and the space for civil society engagement remains narrow or is, in some cases, shrinking. This can severely limit the operations and effectiveness of organisations, notably those working on human rights and advocacy.

Ireland has a long tradition of supporting civil society engagement. Through the Government’s aid programme, we work to protect the space in which civil society organisations operate, and to foster an enabling environment for the work. We channel a higher proportion of our development assistance through civil society organisations than other international donors. Of Ireland’s total aid budget of €623 million this year, about a quarter will be channelled through civil society organisations to support their valuable work in, for example, improving access to health care and education, supporting livelihoods, and strengthening accountability, governance and democracy. Trócaire and a number of other organisations, such as Christian Aid and Frontline Defenders, are specifically funded by my Department to promote and facilitate strong civil society engagement across a range of countries.

In Ireland’s nine partner countries, where we have a commitment to long term strategic assistance, we also provide funding to local civil society organisations. This enables their participation at local and national levels of decision-making and their work for the fulfilment of human rights, especially for the most vulnerable. Ireland’s partnerships in these countries are founded on respect for human rights, and we will continue to emphasise in our dialogue with partner governments that it is essential to ensure the role of civil society organisations is enhanced.

Internationally, by signing up to the 2011 Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, we have agreed to implement fully our commitments to enable civil society organisations to exercise their role as independent development actors. At the most recent formal meeting of EU Development Ministers, in Luxembourg last October, I gave strong support to new Council Conclusions on Europe's engagement with civil society. These commit Member States “to support and promote an enabling environment for an independent, pluralistic and active civil society in partner countries”. The EU will work to improve dialogue with civil society organisations on the ground, and will continue close monitoring of legislation, regulations and other restrictions on the operation of civil society organisations in our partner countries.

Ireland’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council presents a valuable opportunity to build on our contribution to the promotion and protection of an enabling environment for civil society. We intend to advance this issue during our term on the Council, following a successful meeting on consolidating the space for civil society which Ireland organised during the September 2012 Human Rights Council session. Ireland is also championing the UN Universal Periodic Review mechanism which reviews all member states’ human rights records, including the treatment of civil society actors and human rights defenders.

The Government will continue to promote civil society-led initiatives and support other arrangements at national and international level to promote and monitor an enabling environment for civil society organisations.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (146)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

146. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the recent UN-drafted peace deal for the Democratic Republic of Congo which has been signed by 11 African states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12560/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I welcome the recent progress in efforts to secure a durable solution to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In particular, I welcome the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the DRC and the Region, which was concluded in Addis Ababa on 24 February, in the presence of the UN Secretary General. This important Agreement was reached by the Government of the DRC and ten neighbouring and regional countries. The co-guarantors of the Agreement are the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the United Nations. It follows a brutal campaign of violence in eastern DRC by the so-called M23 group, which escalated in April 2012 and which has led to the deaths of many innocent civilians, appalling abuses of human rights and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. I would like to pay tribute to the work of the UN Secretary General and leaders of the countries of the Great Lakes region for their patient, intense mediation and negotiation efforts to try to broker a comprehensive framework for peace in the region.

The adoption of the Agreement was welcomed on behalf of the EU in a joint statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton and Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. I am in full agreement with the statement which calls on all sides to continue negotiating in good faith and to refrain from violence.

In the UN Secretary General’s own words, a lasting solution requires at least four essential elements. It must be anchored in the political will of the leaders of all countries in the region. It must address the structural causes fuelling instability in the DRC itself. It must respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate concerns and interests of all concerned countries. It also demands the commitment and long-term support of the international community.

The Agreement contains important commitments from the Government of the DRC, from its neighbours and regional partners and from the international community. However, as the Secretary General has also stressed, it represents the start of the process rather than the end. Lasting peace will only be secured in the DRC if the Agreement is implemented in full and the opportunity it presents is fully grasped by all parties involved.

The UN Secretary General plans to appoint a Special Envoy who, together with the relevant parties, will support the implementation of the Agreement. He is also proposing the establishment within the UN mission, MONUSCO, of an Intervention Brigade to address security aspects of the crisis more comprehensively.

The European Union will continue to play a constructive role, working through political and diplomatic engagement, development cooperation programmes, and support for MONUSCO. The EU is also pursuing security sector reform programmes, through its Common Security and Defence Policy missions in the DRC.

Ireland will also continue to play its part. We are contributing a number of military observers to the UN Mission and over the past year Ireland has provided over €10 million in assistance to those worst affected in the DRC. This assistance has been channelled through the UN, international organisations, and our NGO partners. Last week, we allocated a further €3.8 million for humanitarian relief efforts in the DRC over the coming period.

Presidential Distinguished Service Awards

Questions (147)

Seán Kenny

Question:

147. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he will open the nomination process for the 2013 Presidential Distinguished Services Award for the Irish Abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12620/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department recently commenced the process of seeking nominations for the 2013 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad. Individuals abroad can make nominations through one of our diplomatic Missions. Nominees for this Award will be drawn from the following areas of achievement: Irish community support; Arts, culture and sport; charitable works, business and education, and peace, reconciliation and development.

In order to be eligible for consideration, nominees must be habitually resident outside the island of Ireland and are required to satisfy the following additional requirements: have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad; have actively and demonstrably contributed to Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad in at least one of the categories above; have a track record of sustained support and engagement with Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad over a period of not less than 5 years.

While the scheme is open to all persons living abroad, it is primarily aimed at Irish citizens, those entitled to Irish citizenship and persons of Irish descent, who have made a sustained and distinguished service to Ireland or Irish communities abroad.

A High Level Panel based in Ireland will consider the nominations received from abroad and will make recommendations to the Government in respect of no more than 10 individuals.

It is expected that the recipients of the 2013 Awards will be presented with them by the President in late 2013.

Human Rights Issues

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 145.

Questions (148)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

148. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the level of engagement he has with programme country governments funded by Ireland through Irish Aid, to establish the effectiveness of those countries practices and legal procedures which uphold basic human rights and dignity, promote equality and afford the protection of the state to the individual; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12895/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Ireland works in nine Programme Countries mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and all our aid programmes are targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable. Regular dialogue is an essential part of the work of our Embassies in their engagement with partner Governments. The promotion and protection of human rights, equitable development and the eradication of poverty are important components of this dialogue.

Our engagement is undertaken both bilaterally as well as jointly with other diplomatic missions, especially resident EU missions. It includes meetings at the highest level, such as with the Head of State, Government Ministers and the Legislature, on a wide range of issues - political, economic and development. Engagement also takes place through the various aid coordination mechanisms established at national and local level to oversee the implementation of development programmes funded by Ireland and other development partners. Continuous assessments on governance conditions in our Programme Countries, including respect for human rights, are a part of this engagement.

As well as monitoring progress, we also actively support the promotion of human rights and equality in our Programme Countries in a number of important ways. This includes assistance to partner Governments in their work to eradicate poverty and promote and protect human rights, gender equality and the rule of law. We support oversight institutions such as National Human Rights Institutions and Ombudsmen, as well as non-governmental organisations and others to advance human rights and equality, especially for the most vulnerable. We also support national Parliaments, which are the cornerstone of democracy and good governance.

Ireland’s current membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council provides a further opportunity to play a vibrant role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, including in our programme countries. We remain committed to a strong multilateral human rights system which can impartially monitor the implementation of human rights norms. In particular, Ireland is championing the UN Universal Periodic Review mechanism which reviews all member states’ human rights records.

At the European Union level too, Ireland is playing a full and active part in ensuring human rights are advanced in our Programme Countries. Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union reaffirmed the EU’s determination to promote human rights and democracy through all its external actions. Ireland, together with other EU Member States and the European Commission, agreed an EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy last year. By working together effectively in promoting human rights, we believe our impact will be greater.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 145.

Northern Ireland Issues

Questions (150)

Brendan Smith

Question:

150. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had discussions with Members of the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to the need for all Members of the Executive to support, without equivocation, the Police Service of Northern Ireland in its work in dealing with violence arising from flag protests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13119/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since the outbreak of street violence in early December, I have had frequent contact with the party leaders within the Northern Ireland Executive. While the situation regarding the flag protests has been calmer in recent weeks, we remain fully engaged in our support of the work of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The persistence of sectarianism in Northern Ireland, with the absence of political agreement on how to make progress towards a truly reconciled society, contributes to the likelihood of incidents such as those we have witnessed in recent weeks. While we continue to work in support of efforts to address the root causes of sectarianism, it is vital that the rule of law is respected and that the PSNI is fully supported in implementing the rule of law.

In addition to these issues, the focus of political leadership in Northern Ireland should be on maintaining and creating jobs through economic recovery, in which inward investment and tourism play such a crucial role. The Government are ready to support the Executive and political leadership in Northern Ireland in whatever way we can.

National Treasury Management Agency

Questions (151)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

151. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance whether there will be a €20 billion reduction in the National Treasury Management Agency's market borrowing requirements in the next decade (details supplied); the way this figure was calculated and the assumptions, including of economic growth, future refinancing rates, net present value and inflation that were used to underpin that calculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12328/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

As the Deputy is aware it has been estimated that there will be a c.€20 billion reduction in the National Treasury Management Agency’s market borrowing requirements over the next 10 years (before transaction costs) as a result of replacing the amortising Promissory Notes with a portfolio of non-amortising Irish Government bonds. The €20 billion reduction in market borrowing requirement over the next decade to which the Deputy refers was calculated by comparing the estimated borrowing requirements from the market to finance the payments on the Promissory Notes under the previous arrangement to the requirements under the existing arrangement in which a portfolio of Irish Government bonds has replaced the Promissory Notes.

The reduced borrowing requirement over the next 10 years arises due to a number of factors, the most significant of which is the fact that capital repayments are not required to be made over the period. The borrowing requirement from the market is also reduced by the lower interest rate arrangement on the new bonds.

Key assumptions applied to the calculation include a forecasted 6 month Euribor curve, forecasted ECB and sovereign refinancing rates and forecast of payments from the Central Bank of Ireland to the State. Economic growth, net present value and inflation were not used in the calculation. As the Deputy will appreciate these are assumptions with regard to future events which are impossible to predict with certainty.

NAMA Staff Remuneration

Questions (152)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

152. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if developers' salaries set by the National Asset Management Agency will be reduced in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; and, if so, if he will outline the reductions. [12353/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

NAMA seeks to ensure that income generated by assets securing NAMA loans is applied towards repaying a debtor’s indebtedness to NAMA. In certain circumstances, debtors are allowed to retain a portion of asset income in lieu of overheads which include staff costs where this is necessary to preserve the value of the assets securing NAMA’s loans. NAMA advises that operating cost allowances are reviewed as part of its regular review of each debtor’s performance. NAMA advises that these reviews include consideration of developments in the wider economy and that debtors are not immune to these wider considerations.

Universal Social Charge Payments

Questions (153)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

153. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a reduction in the universal social charge for one income families which are struggling with the cost of living; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12304/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

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.

Tax Rebates

Questions (154)

Jack Wall

Question:

154. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is due a tax refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12320/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statements (P21s) for the years 2009 to 2011 inclusive issued to the person concerned in January 2013. As the total overpayment arising was less than €0.50 cent the credit will be included in future tax credits. The tax year 2012 will be reviewed on receipt of Form 60 for 2012.

Property Taxation Collection

Questions (155)

Noel Grealish

Question:

155. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Finance when he expects local property tax to be deductible from rental income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12341/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Inter-departmental group chaired by Dr. Don Thornhill to consider the design of a property tax (the “Thornhill Group”) recommended that the Local Property Tax (LPT) paid in respect of a rented property should be deductible for income tax or corporation tax purposes, in a similar manner to commercial rates. However, the Group recognised the considerable pressures on the public finances and the need to bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue. For this reason, the Group suggested that consideration be given to phasing in deductibility over a period of years. The Group also considered that it is for Government, having regard to the prevailing budgetary situation, to decide on the time span for phasing-in deductibility and on what percentage of LPT to allow as a deduction from gross rents for tax purposes. There is no provision in the current legislation for such deductions. While it is the intention of the Government to introduce such a provision on a phased basis, neither the manner in which this will happen or the timing have yet been decided.