Budget 2020 winners and losers: Smoker commuting long distances is hardest hit
Analysis: No changes to personal tax regime while welfare payments largely untouched
A heavy smoker who drives long distances in a diesel-powered car and burns fossil fuel in winter has the most to fear from Budget 2020. Photograph: Getty
A heavy smoker from the midlands who drives long distances in their diesel-powered car and burns through a lot of fossil fuel to keep themselves warm in winter will bear the brunt of Budget 2020.
A self-employed, electric car-owning, non-smoking, city-dwelling, wine-drinker will be quietly pleased, however with what Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe had to say to them.
For most other people, the impact of a budget which has been “developed in the shadow of Brexit” will go almost unnoticed.
As had been widely flagged, there were no changes to the wider personal tax regime while social welfare payments were largely untouched.
There were small tax credit bumps for the self-employed - who will be better off to the tune of €3 a week next year as a result - and for home carers, who might be as much as €2 richer each week.
There will also be an increase in the inheritance threshold and a widening of access to prescription drugs and medical services for children.
But beyond some relatively minor tweaks there will be no reason to don the hairshirt or indeed pop the champagne corks.
Anyone who does pop those corks can do so safe in the knowledge that it won’t cost them any more this weekend than last weekend and people fond of the odd - or even frequent - glass of wine, beer or anything stronger were spared any financial pain.
The nation’s smokers will not be so happy. They were hit with a 50 cent increase on a packet of 20 cigarettes, a hike which takes the cost of 20 cigarettes to €13.30 and adds around €250 on to the annual cost of the habit for a pack-a-day smoker.
The tobacco tax increase had been widely flagged in advance as had the increase in the carbon tax paid on fossil fuels. This was introduced as expected although some increases have been delayed until after the winter and - perhaps more importantly - until after the anticipated general election.
Donohoe was anxious to portray the carbon tax increase of €6 per tonne, which will see carbon taxes climb from €20 a tonne to €26 a tonne, as an environmentally-friendly and essential step in tackling climate change.
It is, however, unlikely to go far in changing people’s habits.
The increase will add €1.02 to the cost of 60 litres of petrol and €1.18 to the same volume of diesel, while a 900-litre home heating delivery will cost an additional €15. A 12.5 kg bag of peat will cost 16 cent more and about 72 cent has been added to the price of a 40kg bag of coal.
In a cold winter, the increase in the carbon tax could well add a further €50 onto the cost of heating a home with oil, with perhaps another €20 in higher taxes for coal, turf or briquettes.
All told, a comparatively heavy domestic user of fossil fuels might see their annual bills rise by around €90.
Other measures which will benefit some people include an increase of €100 in the home carer tax credit to €1,600 while the self-employed tax credit goes up by €150 to €1,500.
The inheritance tax threshold will increase by €15,000 from €320,000 to €335.000. There will also be a €5 increase in the living alone allowance from next March, as well as an increase from €34 to €36 in the dependent children allowance for those aged up to 12, and a €3 increase for those over 12.
There will be a 100 per cent Christmas bonus for all social welfare recipients.
Prescription charges will fall by 50c and the drug payment scheme will see its threshold reduced by €10.
The thresholds for medical cards for the over-70s will increase by €50 for a single person, meaning someone in receipt of a gross weekly income of up to €550 will soon be able to apply for a medical card. For a couple, the threshold will increase to €1,050 from €900.
There will also be free GP care for children under eight from next September with free dental care for children under six.
Many of these relatively minor measures announced were described as “important cost of living reductions for the most vulnerable in our society,” by Donohoe.
Just how important remains to be seen.