1. Reduction of VAT to 9% for new build residential houses.
Taking into account the current housing crises and demand for family homes, this reduction in VAT from 13.5% to 9% would greatly assist in increasing the numbers of homes being built.
2. Childcare Cost Allowance – Tax relief
Childcare costs continue to be unnecessarily prohibitive to parents in Ireland. Indeed in some cases a parent may decide to remain in the home as a full time parent as this option is more financially beneficial than returning to the workforce. In the current climate it is essential that as many people as possible are encouraged to enter the workforce. I am aware that the Minister is very aware of the ongoing problems associated with childcare costs but I am urging him to again look at this issue from a practical point of view.
a) Tax relief on childcare costs. This is an option which I strongly contend should be explored. This relief could be available directly to one parent, as nominated by the household, whose child/ children attend a registered childcare facility. If this was to be introduced I would also propose the notion of fixed pricing childcare costs to ensure that prices do not rise as a result of childcare providers exploiting the tax relief being available to parents.
b) Cost of childcare geographically defined: I also appreciate that the cost of childcare varies geographically throughout the country and therefore the tax relief cannot be a flat rate. Therefore I suggest that the amount to be claimed on the cost should be geographically defined similar to the thresholds used for Rent Supplement throughout the country whereby the amount received is dependent on where a person lives.
c) Government supported childcare – International Alternative: There are two government-supported childcare options in Denmark, between the ages of 0 and three children can be placed in local nurseries and from the ages of three to six children can be placed in local kindergartens. The price of childcare is set by the local government, however according to state law parents must not pay more than 25-28% of the cost of childcare in the institution. All staff employed (both public and private) are trained as pre-school pedagogic (the science and art of education). In Denmark, for children of primary-school age there are before and after school programmes, this form of childcare is available through the school or through the local government. For children secondary school age youth clubs either ran privately or ran by the local government are available to teenagers.
d) Extend Early Childhood Care & Education Scheme – I understand that plans are in place to extend the free preschool year to include a second year before the end of the decade, however I would strongly urge that funding be made available as soon as possible to make this a reality. The extension of this scheme will ease the financial pressures on hard pressed parents who are struggling to pay for childcare costs for currently up to four years.
3. Allow Mortgage Interest Relief for families who are forced to rent out their homes:
There are a growing number of families being forced to move out of their homes due to lack of space. Many of these were young couples who bought apartments or small houses during the boom, have since had a family and can no longer remain in cramped accommodation. Due to negative equity and difficulties in obtaining mortgages, these families are being forced to move out of their homes and rent larger accommodation elsewhere. In the meantime, the house which they are paying their one and only mortgage on is being rented but the property owners lose their Mortgage Interest Relief because the house is no longer considered their principal residence.
I would urge the Minister to seriously look at this situation. This is clearly a fall out from the property bubble and struggling families, who rely on the Mortgage Interest Relief, are being penalised for seeking more suitable accommodation for their growing families.
I appreciate that in order to be eligible for Mortgage Interest Relief the property must be the principal residence, however I feel that justifiable exceptions should be made in situations such as this, similar to extending the 30% Mortgage Interest Relief to those who bought between 2004-2008. Despite the fact that the property owners may no longer be living in the house, they are still technically the mortgage holders (a large percentage of which are First Time Buyers) and should not lose this status as consequence of overcrowding.
I understand that this could be abused by some people and therefore certain conditions must be imposed for example:
a) The mortgage holders will have to rent accommodation which is registered with the PRTB and their own property should likewise be registered.
b) They will have to consistently prove to the bank that they are both paying their mortgage and rental on other properties
An area through which money can be generated is a licence fee on gaming machines. I would urge you to increase the gaming machine licence fee and the gaming premises licence by bringing them in line with Northern Ireland costs. For example if there was a fee of €1,000 per machine the excise duty could be as much as €12 million based on current figures.
5. Low Price alcohol selling
There has been much debate in recent time with regard to the banning of alcohol companies from sponsoring sporting clubs and events. Throughout this debate, an issue which has consistently been raised with me is that such a measure would have very little impact on alcohol consumption but rather tackling low cost alcohol sales would be more effective. In the 2013 Budget, the cost of a bottle of wine was increased by €1; therefore a precedent has been set. I therefore support the concept of minimum pricing on alcohol as I believe that it would not only tackle alcohol misuse in this country but also contribute to the exchequer.
6. Exemption on income tax for leased farm lands
It is vital that young farmers in our society are supported going forward and the practice of transferring farm lands from parent to child or between siblings is supported at all costs to encourage same. One of the major stumbling blocks for young farmers however is the inability of close relatives to apply for an exemption from income tax from certain income arising from the leasing of lands. This is particularly the case for parents who are over 40 years of age or those who have been deemed physically or mentally incapacitated from carrying on a trade of farming. Currently if they lease their lands to their children, the exemption cannot be applied. I strongly believe that this rule should be removed to allow the exemption to apply regardless of the relationship.