Burton seems to rule out tax or means test on payment


Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton appears to have ruled out taxing or means-testing child benefit in the budget.

She said yesterday that while her personal preference was to impose a tax, “we don’t have the systems to do that”.

Ms Burton added: “We will be able to do that within a relatively short period of time. In the meantime, I think it is absolutely important to keep that universal payment at a high level, paid to the caring parent, the mother.

“I believe the women of Ireland value that. I think a system of very detailed means-testing would be very, very difficult for most middle-income families.”

Ms Burton said an advisory group report would be published in the new year and people could see for themselves the proposals being made.

Speaking on the RTÉ Radio This Week programme, Ms Burton said the group was looking at a two-tier system, incorporating a supplementary child payment for social welfare recipients and those on low incomes.

On payments made to pensioners, Ms Burton said she was aware people enormously valued free travel. However, there was a problem with people holding fraudulent passes.

“That is something we are examining on an ongoing basis, basically to see again if we can produce a high quality card that absolutely makes certain the identity of the person using it.”

She said the Government would have to look and see “if we can get better value from the utility companies in relation to gas and energy, telephones . . . to whom we pay a great deal of money on behalf of retired people in Ireland.”

On the property tax, Ms Burton said discussions so far indicated that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was proposing a series of payment options. This could mean having it deducted from salary or paying by standing order or cheque. It could also be deducted from a core social welfare payment.

But it was not possible, she added, to deduct more than a small percentage from somebody’s social welfare income because of a minimum assistance right.