Tax relief is not available to parents in respect of crèche fees or childcare costs. However, I can assure the Deputy that the Government acknowledges the continuing cost pressures on parents, particularly those with young children. In recognition of these cost pressures, a number of support measures are in place to ease the burden on working parents. These include the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, which funds community childcare services to enable them to charge reduced childcare fees to qualifying parents, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme which provides free childcare places to qualifying FÁS and VEC trainees and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which provides for a free pre-school year for children in the year before commencing primary school. Generous entitlements to paid and unpaid maternity leave as well as child benefit payments are also provided.
The Department of Social Protection provides financial support to families on low pay by way of the Family Income Supplement (FIS) and to one-parent families through the one-parent family payment. In addition, a Single Person Child Carer tax credit of €1,650 is provided as well as an additional standard rate band of €4,000. This credit and band is payable to any single person with a child under 18 years of age or over 18 years of age if in full time education or permanently incapacitated. The primary claimant may relinquish this credit and
increase in the rate band to a secondary claimant with whom the child resides for not less than 100 days in the year.
To claim the Single Person Child Carer Credit a claimant must not be married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting.
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. It is a more sustainable charge than those it replaced and is applied at a low rate on a wide base with very few exemptions. In Budget 2012 I announced that those earning less than €10,036 would no longer be subject to the Universal Social Charge. This in itself has removed almost 330,000 individuals from the charge and is of particular benefit to the low paid.
I have no plans to introduce any further tax reliefs for childcare costs. As the Deputy will appreciate, I receive numerous requests for the introduction of new tax reliefs and the extension of existing ones. As the Deputy will also appreciate, I must be mindful of the public finances and the many demands on the Exchequer given the current budgetary constraints. Tax reliefs, no matter how worthwhile in themselves, reduce the tax base and make general reform of the tax system that much more difficult.