The current pandemic may have pushed climate change down in the headlines but there is still a broad acceptance that there is an onus on us all to live more sustainably.
While we frequently focus on retail choices, like the move to plastic-free shopping, another area where individual choices can have a real impact is transport. How we make our journeys, and particularly how we commute, has a real impact on the environment.
With that in mind, and within a recent expenditure increase announced by the Government, now is a good time to look again at the Cycle To Work Scheme.
This tax incentive scheme, generally known as the Bike To Work scheme, aims to encourage employees to cycle to work.
The scheme allows employers who choose to participate to pay for a new bicycle and bicycle accessories for an employee, who repays the cost in regular instalments from their gross salary. It is open to salaried employees who are employed and paying PAYE tax in Ireland.
Up until now, tax relief could only be claimed on up to €1000 for a bike, but in the July stimulus package, the Government announced it is increasing that to €1250 for regular bicycles and €1500 for e-bikes.
The amount of time between purchases availing of the scheme was also reduced from five years to four.
The support for ebikes is specifically for electrically assisted bicycles which require some effort from the cyclist.
It does not cover motorbikes, mopeds, scooters or electric-bike conversion kits. For anyone who hasn’t tried one yet, ebikes have serious potential to make a cycle commute realistic for those who would otherwise not find it possible.
Ebikes are easier and less tiring to ride than a regular bicycle, putting a longer commute in reach of the average cyclist and opening up cycling to those who might avoid regular bikes because of health or low fitness reasons.
Taxback.com say the financial benefits of availing of the Cycle to Work scheme are significant.
According to 2019 figures, those earning less than €35,300 will gain an effective saving of 28.75% (20% IT, 4.50% USC and 4% PRSI) of the cost of the bike, while those earning over €35,300 will save at least 48.50% of the cost of the bike/equipment.
Check with your employer if they offer the scheme and, if so, what requirements they have.
Some employers may allow employees to select the bicycle and equipment from any shop, while others will have a list of certain bicycles from specific shops.
Public service employees must get their bicycle from a supplier approved by the Office of Government Procurement. A list of approved suppliers is available online at ogp.gov.ie.
“Your employer arranges a 'salary sacrifice' over an agreed time, which cannot be for more than 12 months,” Revenue explains.
“In this arrangement, you give up an agreed amount of your gross salary to cover the cost of the bicycle.
“You only pay Income Tax (IT), Universal Social Charge (USC) and Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) on the balance of your salary.”
These deductions can be made weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on your individual salary arrangements.
Revenue says you must mainly use the bicycle and safety equipment for qualifying journeys: “This means the whole or part of a journey between your home and your normal place of work”.
Your employer will ask you to sign a statement stating that the bicycle is for your own use and will be mainly used for qualifying journeys, however, the scheme does not demand detailed or ongoing records of these journeys.
The scheme is also available to employees working from home, who can avail of the scheme if they intend to use the bikes for work-related journeys.
Examples of such journeys would include trips to the post office for work and trips to purchase work-related supplies.
Regular Lidl shoppers are promised regular savings at the till if they download the new Lidl Plus app.
"It's simple, just activate your coupons and scan your Lidl Plus app at the checkout every time you shop to receive instant savings of at least €10 each week," the retailer says.
"Losing your loyalty card or realising you’ve left your vouchers at home as your standing at the checkout are worries of the past now that you’ve got Lidl Plus."
The app is available for both Apple and Android phones and to sweeten the offering, Lidl are offering a €5 off when you spend €25 welcome coupon to everyone who downloads the app.
Find out more at Lidl.ie or download from the Apple App story or Google Play store.