1: Childcare Cost Allowance – Tax relief

I am aware that the Minister is very conscious 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.

  1. a)     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 rather than a second year of the scheme, a full day option should be provided for a full year instead of the current practice of half a day. Offering parents a full day of childcare for a year would save the expense and inconvenience of sourcing childcare for the afternoon as presently occurs. In order to facilitate this scheme parents could perhaps pay just 25% of the cost for the afternoon childcare, as per the Danish system (see below). 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 and would be a stepping stone to more universal state assisted childcare.
  2. b)      Government supported childcare – International Alternative: There are two government-supported childcare options in Denmark which we could look to for guidance. 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.

2: Extend the Home Renovation Scheme to include everyone:

I welcome confirmation of this schemes extension. However rather than the Scheme being exclusively for tax payers I believe, for the remainder of its duration, it should be opened up to allow anyone wishing to improve their home. This would particularly target retired people and pensioners who are presently excluded from the scheme despite paying taxes throughout their working life.

3. Allow farmers harvest whole areas of forestry land without the burden of heavy tax

At present, if a farmer harvests all of his forestry land at once he will be heavily taxed. Therefore farmers tend to harvest this land on a piecemeal basis each year, but this is very costly in terms of renting machinery and labour. I believe it would make much more sense to incentivize farmers to harvest all forestry land available to them at once. This incentive could involve i) lowering the tax burden on the actual land harvested or ii) allowing the income generated in one year’s harvest to be spread over a number of years, thereby lowering the amount of tax levied in a particular year.

4. 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 and rent larger accommodation elsewhere, putting increased pressure on the rental market. 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 understand that this could be abused by some people and therefore certain conditions must be imposed for example:

  1. a)      The mortgage holders will have to rent accommodation which is registered with the PRTB and their own property should likewise be registered.
  2. b)      They will have to consistently prove to the bank that they are both paying their mortgage and rental on other properties

5. 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 build

6. Gaming

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.

7. 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.