Property tax anomaly

 

The first of two deadlines for payment of the Local Property Tax expires next week. Those submitting a paper return – paying by cheque or otherwise – had to do so yesterday, and those filing online by May 28th. However, the self-employed who fail to make a return on time will face tough financial and other sanctions. In their case, the Revenue Commissioners will apply a very particular regime. Where the self-employed delay or fail to pay the property tax, they will be liable to a late filing surcharge on income tax returns.

This is a further example of the tougher rules and higher discriminatory tax rates that, increasingly in recent years, have been imposed on the self-employed. Why, one might well ask, should two workers on the same gross income pay a different tax rate on their earnings?

That, however, now happens on amounts over €100,000. A self-employed worker pays a 10 per cent rate of universal social charge on every extra euro earned over €100,000 while those taxed under PAYE pay 7 per cent. At €200,000, this means a self-employed worker pays some €3,500 more in universal social charge than someone on the same gross income, who is taxed under the PAYE system. The self-employed not alone pay a higher rate of social charge, they also secure fewer benefits – as they cannot claim jobseeker’s benefit.

This inequity has been legislated for, via the Finance Bill, but as yet the Minister for Finance has offered no adequate explanation to justify the distinction that has been created.

While the Government emphasises the need for job creation, at the same time it engages in positive tax discrimination against those on whom it relies to help raise employment – namely, the self-employed.

But this issue also raises major questions about the role and effectiveness of parliament in examining tax legislation. And not least why some of these more obvious anomalies and inequities in the tax system have failed to concern the legislators at all.

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