Ministers got €91,000 accommodation tax relief


MINISTERS WHOSE constituencies are outside Dublin were afforded tax relief of over €91,000 when they claimed a total of €218,000 in accommodation expenses in the capital during 2006 under the dual abode allowance scheme.

The tax relief scheme was set up for Ministers and Ministers of State from outside the capital who need to maintain a second residence in Dublin in addition to his or her main residence. The type of residence covered includes a second house or apartment, rented accommodation, arrangements to stay with relatives in their home, as well as lodgings or hotel accommodation.

Ministers can claim an income tax deduction in respect of expenses incurred in maintaining that second residence, at the top tax rate - currently 41 per cent.

In 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, a total of 15 Ministers and Ministers of State claimed the allowance. The total amount of expenditure claimed was €218,453, which entitled them to tax relief totalling €91,750.26.

The Revenue Commissioners, which furnished the figures to The Irish Times, would not identify individual Ministers for reasons of confidentiality.

The breakdown of the figures shows that €30,369 was clawed back as tax relief on second homes; a total of €21,840 was given as relief for maintenance of owned properties; while the value of tax relief on hotel accommodation amounted to €39,540.90.

Details of the scheme show that comparatively generous reliefs are available to ministers. It has been criticised in the past as a perk that is available only to politicians but to no other section in society.

For a second home, an allowance is made equivalent to the annual mortgage interest at the 41 per cent rate. In addition, if the residence is acquired during the term of office, the costs of acquiring the property, including solicitor's fees and auctioneer's fees can also be claimed.

In addition, an office holder is entitled to an allowance for the actual vouched costs expended in maintaining the second residence. Examples of maintenance costs are light, heating, repairs and insurance. If a Minister does not wish to submit vouched costs, he or she is entitled to claim a flat-rate allowance of €6,350 per annum.

For rented accommodation, the office holder can claim an allowance equivalent to the actual cost of renting the accommodation, in addition to the costs for maintaining the residence.

If somebody is staying in a hotel or lodgings, the allowance which can be claimed will be the equivalent to the actual cost of room rental.

All Ministers and Ministers of State are entitled to this allowance. Of the eight non-Dublin Ministers, those who own second residences in Dublin include Tánaiste Brian Cowen; Minister for Enterprise and Employment Micheál Martin; Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan and Minister for Social Affairs Martin Cullen.

Mr Cowen's spokesman said he avails of the tax breaks afforded by the dual abode allowance for his city centre apartment, purchased in 2004. He uses the one-bedroom apartment when Government business prevents him from returning to his home in Tullamore. Due to security considerations, Mr Cowen's living arrangements in Dublin may be reviewed when he becomes Taoiseach next month.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív stays with relatives while in the capital. Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea stays in a hotel in the city centre on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern both return to their homes in Trim, Co Meath, and Dundalk, Co Louth, each night.