On a point of order, I should like to clarify my mind. I understand that in the Seanad we do not get the Committee Stage of this Bill by reason of the fact that it was examined by a special committee. I take it this special committee was a joint committee of the two Houses.
Income Tax Bill, 1966 (Certified Consolidation Bill): Report and Final Stages.
That is correct. It is under Standing Orders.
I just want to say a few formal words about this measure. I am grateful for the manner in which both Houses have received this consolidation measure. Anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at the Bill will realise that it is a most complex piece of legislation. The task of the Joint Committee of both Houses set up to consolidate this law was no easy one. The fact that they dealt with it so efficiently is in itself a tribute to the energy and devotion of the Joint Committee. This is a consolidating Bill which does not and cannot reform the existing law. That law may not be perfect, but nevertheless the fact is that this is the first time in the history of the State that we have all the Statutes relating to income tax in one measure. This will make it easier for all concerned, whether they are at the receiving or the paying end. This is a considerable achievement and one which will give satisfaction to all those who assisted in it.
I should particularly like to pay tribute to the Chairman of the Joint Committee, Deputy Sweetman, for the work which he did as Chairman, and indeed to each of the individual members of the committee, to all the members of the staffs, the staffs of both Houses of the Oireachtas, the staff of the Revenue Commissioners, and the staff of the Draftsman's Office. They are deserving of the highest commendation for the excellent work they did on this measure.
I should like to join with the Minister in thanking this Committee for preserving us in this House and in the other House from the task of having to go through the 400-odd pages of the Bill. It is most useful to have this legislation under one cover, so to speak. We are grateful for the work which the Committee did. I hope there is no significance in the fact that the page dealing with the balancing allowances I was issued with is upside down, and that this does not indicate the topsy-turvy nature of the law.
The fact that this legislation has been brought together in this way and consolidated should make it easier I would hope for the Minister to reform our income tax law. Some plans have been announced in this regard and it is time that our income tax laws were reviewed in a number of respects. Ours is a very old-fashioned system. The arrangement under which corporation taxation and personal taxation are theoretically one system is a very old-fashioned and out-of-date system dating back to the time when there was no such thing as a joint stock company. I think we need to reconsider this as has been done elsewhere. I would hope that when the Minister is considering an amendment of this law he will make a better preparation than was made in Britain in this connection where the splitting of the two forms of income tax and the introduction of the new corporation tax was accompanied by confusion because there was inadequate preparation. We can benefit by learning from their mistakes and if we have adequate preparation we will be able to effect the change more smoothly.
In regard to the impending introduction of the decimal currency system—in respect of which I hope the Minister will not fall into the error which Britain has been misled into when announcing the adoption of an unsatisfactory decimal system—this introduction of the decimal system would be an appropriate occasion to reconsider the whole system and to introduce a progressive element into our income tax code. At present it is most complex, cumbersome and out of date. The confusion about the personal allowances is dangerous because it misleads people into thinking that the allowances are meant to represent the amount of money which they need to live on before tax is taken from them. This leads to considerable confusion and it has in fact led the Labour Party to propose larger personal allowances, which does not seem to be in accord with the alleged philosophy of that Party. The complex system of personal allowances, earned income allowances and surtax can be replaced by a progressive system when we come to adopt the decimal coinage system. We can look forward to trying to turn this into a tax code which will relate to the latter of the twentieth century instead of to the first part of the nineteenth century where its origins lie, and the character of which it bears at present.
Having said that, I welcome the Bill. I suppose it is appropriate that I should contribute at short length, most disproportionate to the size of the Bill about which I am speaking.