Budget was about buying election, not fairness for all

There was something for everyone in the audience but is it enough? There is no doubt that this was a budget with an election in mind. On first glance the budget was clearly one that Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show would have been proud of.

There was ‘something for everyone in the audience’, although slightly skewed to those more likely to vote.

The only issue from the Fine Gael and Labour perspective will be the timing for that initial feel-good factor when the money starts entering wage packets, and will there be enough to get those floating and wavering votes back in the Coalition ballot box?

While it puts money back in folks’ pockets will the budget be enough to get people to forget the increased charges, Vat rates and stealth taxes over the last seven years.

Will issues such as the Irish Water mismanagement debacle be forgotten?

At this point we must still wait for the Finance Bill to see if this budget is indeed as all-embracing as it appears to be.

A Finance Bill that enhances the largesse of this budget and has implementation dates which suit the development of a feel-good factor as money slips into the taxpayers’ pockets will only underline the fact that it is indeed an election budget.

So what exactly did the Government do in this budget?

The following is just a small sample of the very many points where taxpayers or, more importantly, voters are set to gain.

The Universal Social Charge (USC) is being reduced which will mean that anyone earning under approximately €70,000 will see their marginal tax rate drop down to 49.5% for the first time in six years.

However, a commitment to getting rid of this grossly iniquitous tax was not to be seen despite some pre-budget claims that it would be.

The Property Tax is being fixed until 2019. Sure, it is to be welcomed as rising house valuations hit urban areas, particularly Dublin, but what happens after that?

The commitment would appear to be to find a fairer means of assessment by then. But fairer is a very relative term and the terms of reference for that search will be the key drivers.

There is an increase in the threshold for Capital Gains Tax which will be of specific interest to those inheriting property from a deceased parent from €225,000 to €280,000.

But that threshold does not take into account the ongoing increases in urban property prices.

The self-employed and business owners have also been offered some sops with limited reductions and a promise that they will be treated more fairly and equitably in the future.

But the failure to reduce the greater USC paid by higher earners makes one wonder of the real commitment to this.

On the other hand, the minimum wage has been increased from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour which will almost inevitably impact on hard pressed small companies and potentially impact on Mr Noonan’s claims that the budget would increase employment.

It has been suggested by the opposition parties that the Government is trying to buy the next election.

Given that the Government was hamstrung by the lack of the necessary readies, as well as cautionary urgings from Europe and elsewhere, it was unable to give the level of largesse that it surely would have preferred.

Over the last several weeks, in particular, we’ve seen Dear Enda appear to hover back and forth between an early election and a later one in early 2016 when the taxpayer starts to get a few more bob back in his pocket.

One can only wonder if the bounce that will come with this budget will encourage another flip flop which might just result in an even earlier election.

Given that Enda Kenny wants to be the first Fine Gael leader to win two successive elections, we should be very wary of the positive spins that will be put on many aspects of this budget. But we need to be even more wary of promises that will flow like confetti at a wedding in the coming months.

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