Families with an income of more than €100,000 are not wealthy, but are "struggling" to make ends meet, according to Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who has ruled out further tax hikes.
A Dáil argument over what constitutes a rich person in Ireland today was prompted after the People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett called for a “wealth tax” on earnings of over €100,000.
Mr Noonan claimed the socialist TD’s definition of wealth shows he did not understand “what it is like in normal households”.
Mr Noonan said: “The teacher married to the guard or the nurse married to the guard or the teacher — when you take the two incomes together they are over €100,000. They are not well-off, they’re struggling.”
He said: “They are barely making ends meet, they’re barely getting the kids up in the morning and out to school, paying the bills, paying the mortgage, and keeping the car on the road. That is the position in most of rural Ireland. And if you think a gross income for a couple at €100,000 is wealth, you’re not meeting the real people.”
Mr Boyd Barrett said the “real people of Ireland” are those who earn €30,000 or €40,000 a year, who have already had “harsh measures imposed on them” in successive budgets.
“Their take-home pay has been hammered, they are going to be hit with water charges and property taxes and bills going up and up and up,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.
“The idea that the majority of people on the doorsteps — that you and I talk to — earn in excess of €100,000 or €150,000 is nonsense.”
He added: “I don’t understand why you are not willing to put extra tax on them rather than continually hitting the lower earners.”
A range of tax bands on high incomes would yield €922m a year, he said, which could ease the burden on the less well-off.
Mr Noonan rejected the proposal, saying it would be a tax on work and therefore against government policy. If a wealth tax was introduced then young people, particularly graduates, “would up and leave”, he said.
“Somebody I know personally is relocating to Perth. She is getting double the money and half the tax. Why wouldn’t you go?” he asked.
Mr Noonan also said the move would “close down the technology industry in Dublin”, claiming workers in the likes of Google, Twitter, and Facebook would relocate. “We have to look at international comparisons, you can’t act like there is a wall around us,” he said. “Ireland has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world and there are no plans to introduce a wealth tax.”
The Society of St Vincent de Paul said the definition of wealth or poverty is not as black and white as it once was and that income groups that once were donors are now coming to it for help.
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