The Universal Social Charge (USC) was introduced from 1 January 2011 to replace the Income Levy and the 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 in nature and not a social contribution as it does not possess the attributes of a social security contribution. Payment of the USC does not guarantee a benefit nor is there a defined relationship between payments under the charge, contributions and benefits paid, as there normally is with a social insurance system. PRSI is applied on a narrower earned income base, the rates of charge differ by sector and other non-income related criteria, and there are cash benefit entitlements that derive from the maintenance of a contribution record that varies by sector i.e. employee, self-employed and public servant. These differences mean there are considerable non-tax policy issues that would need to be resolved before PRSI could be incorporated in to the USC charge. Delivering on a commitment in the Programme for Government, the USC was reviewed by the Department of Finance in the lead up to Budget 2012. The report is available at www.finance.gov.ie. As the Deputy will be aware, it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.