Ministers defend ‘small’ tax perk for second homes

MINISTERS last night defended the tax perk that lets them claim €100,000 a year for second homes, insisting the amounts were “small”.

As pressure mounted on Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to abolish the dual abode allowance, Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said the €3,000 a year in tax relief he takes to help pay the mortgage on his Dublin home was “not huge”.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan also insisted the perk amounts given to ministers were “small”. “It is made available to ministers who are not entitled to overnight allowances in the context of a small tax relief if they purchase a property.”

The perk, which allows non Dublin-based ministers to receive on average €5,500 a year for the “maintaining” of their homes in the capital – even hotel rooms there – should be done away with, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny insisted. He said he would end the practice if he became Taoiseach as part of wide-ranging overhaul of the political system.

Of the other Cabinet members from non-Dublin constituencies who can claim the tax relief, only Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said he did take the dual abode perk. Half a dozen other non-Dublin ministers all appeared to go to ground as Batt O’Keeffe, Willie O’Dea, Martin Cullen, Éamon O Cuív, Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern, failed to respond to Irish Examiner requests to say if they received the allowance and for what reason they claimed it, if they did.

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