Lucrative universal social charge is here to stay, says finance minister

A temporary levy forced on workers at the beginning of the recession is here to stay, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said, as he ruled out scrapping the Universal Social Charge.

But he angered workers even more last night when he said people on salaries of €70,000 were “not wealthy”.

His comments came as it emerged yesterday that the army were almost called in to protect the banks during the financial crisis.

However, as families prepare to pay for property and water charges next year, Mr Noonan has firmly ruled out removing the USC.

“It collects an enormous amount of money, over €4.5bn. It’s going to be part of the personal taxation code,” he told Newstalk.

The Fine Gael minister said low-paid workers disliked the charge which kicks in at €12,000 and that it was exempt from tax breaks for high earners.

“People wouldn’t pay tax at all if it wasn’t for USC... from an exchequer point of view, it is very efficient.”

He said income tax was also a temporary charge when introduced by the House of Commons in 1906.

Focusing on the next general election, the Limerick TD reiterated the Taoiseach’s comments that the Coalition, if re-elected, would further reduce personal taxes.

He warned that Sinn Féin’s proposals were the complete opposite and amounted to €1.7bn in tax hikes.

But when later discussing the budget changes for workers, he also said: “People who are [on] €70,000 are not wealthy. When you take out taxes and deductions, their net income is €45,000. That is not wealthy.”

His colleague, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, earlier signalled that a re-elected coalition would cut taxes for the next six years.

He said Enda Kenny was the man to lead Fine Gael into the next election.

Mr Coveney also revealed the Coalition had faced the possibility of putting soldiers outside banks for security reasons during the crisis.

“The country was bust, the Taoiseach was getting briefed by the Central Bank that he needed to have a fall-back position where the army surrounded banks, to protect them because we could literally run out of money.”


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