asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the report prepared by two ESRI economists and delivered at the recent Conference on Poverty and Taxation which estimated that between 11 per cent and 18 per cent of those living in poverty paid income tax or PRSI; the measures, if any, the Government intend to take to eliminate the tax burden on people in this category; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Tax Burden on Poor.
The Deputy will be aware that the report he refers to is based on a survey carried out in 1987. In the 1989 budget, I increased the general exemption limits by £250 for a single person and £500 for a married couple, to £3,000 and £6,000 respectively. The age exemption limits were also increased. In addition, in recognition of the difficulties faced by low income families, a special addition of £200 per child to the exemption limits was introduced. Taxpayers who continued to be assessed under the normal basis benefited from my reduction of the standard rate of income tax from 35 per cent to 32 per cent. The family income supplement scheme also was substantially improved by, among other things, increasing from five to eight the number of children in respect of whom an additional supplement is paid and by increasing the rate of supplementation from 50 to 60 per cent of the difference between actual family income and the statutory income limits.
The Government continue to be concerned to improve the lot of those on low incomes. In this connection, I would point out to the Deputy that the steps taken in the 1989 budget are being continued in the Programme for Government 1989-93, which contains a commitment to continue to reduce the standard rate of income tax to 25 per cent by 1993 and, in order to provide targeted help for the special needs of the lower paid and their families, undertakes to make further improvements in tax exemption limits and the family income supplement scheme.
May I ask the Minister to indicate the numbers who have been assisted by the measures introduced in the 1989 budget given that the ESRI report, based on the 1987 figures, pointed out that there were more than one million people in this State living below the poverty line? Based on that, the report I referred to estimates that between 11 per cent and 18 per cent of them are actually taxpayers and that the elimination of tax on that category would assist something in the region of 100,000 people, lifting them above the poverty line, whether one takes the low threshold or the high threshold.
The first part of the Deputy's question is a separate question; it is looking for statistical information which is not contained in the original question——
That is not playing the game.
——but if the Deputy wants to put it down as a separate question I will be only too glad to answer it.
I asked the Minister whether he accepted——
The Deputy asked how many people——
Can I try to get a further question disposed of? Question No. 57.
In reply to the second part of the Deputy's question, it is the 1987 report, with information gathered between 1986 and 1987——
The Minister knows, as I know, that there are thousands living well below the poverty line and I should like to know what he is going to do to help them.
Question No. 57.
In case the Deputy does not like to hear the truth, and I know he does not from time to time——
The Minister is taxing them.