SMEs not among parties’ priorities but progress promised

The good news for self-employed business owners now that polling day has arrived is that all parties have committed to addressing the imbalance between PAYE and non-PAYE workers with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Renua adopting the strongest stances.

One area the outgoing government began to address at the end of its term was the issue of capital gains tax which was lowered from 33% to 20% on the disposal of business assets in the last budget.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have pledged to bring Ireland into line with the UK by cutting the rate to 10%, while Labour would move to 15% and Renua has adopted a tiered approach; taxing the disposal of assets from a business at rates of between 10% and 20% for “productive businesses” based on the length of time the investment has been made.

Indeed Renua — a party that has sought to position itself as the most business- friendly option for voters — is one of just two parties that has promised to alter the taxation regime for share options which startups feel are crucial to competing for talent given they can not match larger firms on salary alone.

Renua, along with the Greens, are the only parties committed to taxing an employee’s shares when they’re sold as opposed to immediately as is currently the case.

Lucinda Creighton’s party is also the only one flatly opposing increases in the minimum wage, while the Social Democrats have suggested a “voluntary move to a living wage in co-operation with employers”.

Fianna Fáil is the sole party committed to introducing an employers’ PRSI tax credit for businesses with fewer than nine employees while it is also the only party that claims it will introduce a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme aimed at encouraging everyday savers to invest in startups by offering tax relief — which could unlock €100m in funding.

On the broader issue of providing cheap credit to businesses, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland features in a range of policies many of which focus on developing a State-backed bank to provide credit.

While its proposed flat income tax regime has faced legitimate questions and the suggestion that SMEs could lend to each other through an Irish Credit Network has raised a few eyebrows, Renua does at least have a broad range of propositions which promise action in quite a few areas, making it one of the more pro-business parties on offer to voters.

While adopting a prudent approach to the USC, another of the newcomers, the Social Democrats, put an underwhelming range of measures on the table, despite also claiming to be a business-friendly party.

With costed proposals evidently too much to ask for from any party, however, bar Fianna Fáil in a few notable exceptions, none of the parties can justifiably claim to have put a comprehensive business strategy that stands up to scrutiny before the people.

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