Opposition accuses Lenihan of breaking budget promises

PROMISES in the budget that the rich would “pay their fair share” have been sidestepped in the newly published Finance Bill, the opposition claimed last night.

Both Fine Gael and Labour criticised Finance Minister Brian Lenihan for ignoring many recommendations to reform the tax system contained in the Commission on Taxation report published last September. In his December budget speech, Mr Lenihan said “high earners must pay their fair share”.

But according to Labour Finance spokesperson Joan Burton, the minister has “sidestepped” many of the Commission’s recommendations to abolish tax avoidance schemes that benefit the super-rich.

She said property-based tax reliefs which “stoked the boom” continue to cost taxpayers more than €400 million a year. “While the minister has spoken at length in the past about the abolition of property-based tax reliefs, he has acted extremely conservatively by only abolishing one of these reliefs in the 2010 Finance Bill,” Deputy Burton said.

“He did nothing to curtail tax relief on investments in private hospitals or mega-pension pots,” she said.

Fine Gael finance spokesperson Richard Bruton said: “It’s extremely disappointing to see the minister ignore recommendations from his own Commission on Taxation to introduce smart new tax concessions.”

He said the bill has missed the opportunity to implement some of the commission’s recommendations, including help the unemployed to pay for retraining or going back to education and allowing small businesses to offset their research spending against PRSI.

Deputy Bruton said the bill was “simply not fit for purpose”.

He said: “It’s depressing to witness the lack of ambition and vision displayed in the Government’s Finance Bill when set against the scale of Ireland’s economic challenges.”

The measures contained in the bill will mean “extra hardship for many families and households”, according to Ms Burton because it extends VAT charges to services such as waste collection, recycling, off-street parking, toll roads and the operation of leisure facilities.

Mr Bruton said: “These new taxes may fall hardest on households in Dublin, where VAT will be applied on the East and West Links and on bin charges by local authorities for the first time, costing up to €350 per year for tens of thousands.”


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