VAT hikes, congestion charges among tax report recommendations
The phasing out of relief on private health insurance premiums, increases in VAT, the extension of PRSI to all sources of employment income and congestion charges in key urban areas are among the many recommendations contained in the Commission on Taxation and Welfare report.
The document, published today, runs to 500 pages.
It also suggests an “accommodation tax” be introduced on visiting tourists, that the rate of excise duty on diesel and petrol be equalised and that a lifetime limit be imposed on all disposals of businesses and farms to children that qualify for Retirement Relief.
Chaired by Professor Niamh Moloney, the Commission was established by the Minister for Finance in April of last year with a remit of independently considering how best the tax and welfare systems can support economic activity and promote increased employment and prosperity.
The report says its remit is about the medium and longer-term needs of the Irish economy and as a result it looks beyond the current difficulties caused by inflation to take a longer-term perspective.
“Given Ireland’s demographic profile, level of public debt, and a number of other fiscal risks, it is inevitable that the total amount of taxation required to fund public services will increase in the years ahead,” it says.
“While the level of spending on public services is a matter for the democratic system to determine, to simply meet existing expectations for public service provision, the reality is that the State will require additional tax revenues,” it adds.
It says a number of substantial reforms are needed, while the tax base must be widened to limit the need for increases in tax rates and secure the sustainability of the system.
“The balance of taxation needs to shift away from taxes on labour and towards taxes on capital, wealth and consumption,” the report says.
“A strengthening of the PRSI system is also required. Over-reliance on Corporation Tax receipts to narrow the tax base or increase public spending needs to be curtailed,” it urged.
The Commission concludes that while personal taxes are highly progressive, the exclusion of large numbers of individuals from the personal tax system is becoming increasingly problematic from a fiscal sustainability and reciprocity perspective, as this increases vulnerabilities.
It says the priority for reform in this area is in respect of PRSI and suggests the personal tax base be broadened through social insurance.
Among its more than 100 recommendations are the widening of the VAT base as well as limiting the use of zero and reduced rates of VAT.
It says the 9% VAT rate on goods and services should be increased over time to a rate of 13.5%.
Because there is a large share of goods and services that have the 0% and reduced rates of VAT, the report also recommends the 13.5% rate should be increased progressively over time.
It says age should be removed as a factor for determining the charge to Income Tax and Universal Social Charge (USC) and rates of USC should be decided by income level and not by reference to any other eligibility criteria.
PRSI should be extended to all sources of employment income and those over State pension age should pay PRSI on all income other than social welfare payments, it also states.
The Commission also says it believes that just one rate of employer PRSI equal to the higher rate of 11.05% should apply on all weekly incomes, and that the lower rate which currently applies on incomes up to €410 per week should be gradually phased out.
It also endorses the principle that the rate of PRSI on self-employment should be aligned over time with the employer’s rate of 11.05%.
“The Commission does not support the development of a Universal Basic Income in Ireland,” the report also concludes.
The study does not recommend that Child Benefit should be subject to tax, but does recommend the existing system of child income supports should be reformed to facilitate the introduction of an income related second tier of child income support for all low-income households.
On pensions, the Commission believes there should be a meaningful reduction in the tax-free lump sum available from its current level of over four times average earnings.
“Marginal tax rates should apply on all lump sums over the tax-free threshold,” it also states.
It says Approved Retirement Funds should be treated for inheritance tax purposes in the same way as other assets where inherited by anyone other than the individual’s spouse and that age-related contribution rates be replaced with a single annual rate.
The Commission also says there should be a single tax-free lump sum lifetime limit to include both pension lump sums and any ex-gratia termination payments received.
Overall yield from wealth and capital taxes, including property, land, capital acquisitions and capital gains taxes should increase materially as a proportion of overall tax revenues, it says.
The Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) threshold for Group A, which includes children or grandchildren of the person who has died or is giving the gift, should also be reduced, it claims, bringing it closer to the Group B and Group C thresholds.
The report also says the level of agricultural and business relief available for CAT should be reduced and qualifying conditions amended to incentivise “and ensure active participation in the farm or business by the recipient.”
Deposit interest income should be taxed at an individual’s marginal rate of income tax and USC, it also says, and a system should be developed to facilitate the collection of these charges at source in real time by financial institutions.
A site value tax should also be imposed on all land currently not subject to Local Property Tax (LPT), it says, and this should replace the existing system of commercial rates over time, while a surcharge should be imposed on vacant properties.
It also says the level of revenue from LPT should increase through the adjustment of basic rates of tax and possibly the adjustment of valuation bands.
Regarding the move to a low-carbon economy, the analysis backs the planned phased increase in the Carbon Tax to €100 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted by 2030.
It also recommends the equalisation of the rate of excise duty on auto-diesel and petrol in the short to medium term and claims motor tax and Vehicle Registration Tax should be redesigned.
In the medium-term, distance, location and time-based road usage charges should also be introduced, it says, along with congestion charges in key urban areas.
The Commission also recommends long-term overdependence on corporation tax receipts should be avoided because of the significant sustainability risks.
“The Commission supports proposals to target the use of excess receipts in this area towards the Rainy-Day Fund or to reduce debt rather than fund tax reductions or permanent increases in expenditure,” it says.
It also recommends a review be undertaken of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) framework, the Irish Real Estate Fund regime and the use of section 110 vehicles.
The report states that the Employment Investment Incentive (EII) should be extended and enhanced to support early-stage, high-risk and research and development-intensive businesses.
Entrepreneur Relief should also be extended to angel investors, subject to appropriate limits and conditionality, it suggests.