Budget 2016: Main points

Reductions in USC, a rise in the old-age pension, more teachers and gardaí to be hired

The main points from the Budget 2016 speech made by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin have announced the tax and expenditure measures that Fine Gael and Labour hope will convince the public to give them a second term in office.

The parties have directed the additional resources available, some €1.5 billion in all, at reducing the Universal Social Charge and Motor Tax, increasing Child Benefit and the Old Age Pension, and investing in education, health and housing as they seek to lay a foundation for re-election.

Opening his speech, Mr Noonan said recent budgets were difficult but had helped the State to exit its EU-IMF bailout. He said he now hoped to take advantage of economic growth and give something back to the public.

“All workers will gain a full extra week’s wages,” he said.

Mr Noonan said Ireland, at a rate of 6.2 per cent, was on course to be the fastest-growing economy in Europe for a second year in a row. However, he said it was important not to gamble with the benefits arising from this and put the State’s economic future in peril.

The State’s deficit for 2015 would be 2.1 per cent, which Mr Noonan said was well ahead of the target of 2.7 per cent. Mr Howlin said the budget deficit was 12.5 per cent when the Coalition came to power in 2011.

Mr Howlin said “tremondous progress” had been made in reducing national debt and unemployment. There had been a “remarkable turnaround” in the State’s economic fortunes and much of this was due to the public’s resolve, he said.

He denied suggestions the Government had not be fair in the fiscal choices it had made in office and he stressed jobs and wages rather than social welfare would make Irish society more equal going forward.

Here are the main points of Budget 2016:

- The excise duty on a pack of 20 cigarettes is to increase by 50 cent from midnight on Tuesday, which Mr Noonan said was the only tax increase in the budget. The price of tobacco will rise on a pro rata basis.

- The entry point to the USC will rise from €12,012 to €13,000 which Mr Noonan said would remove 42,500 workers from the scope of the charge. The three lower USC rates are to fall - the 1.5 per cent rate (on the first €12,012 earned) will be cut to 1 per cent; the 3.5 per cent rate (on income of €12,012 to €18,668) falls to 3 per cent; and the 7 per cent rate (on earnings of €18,668 to €70,044) will fall to 5.5 per cent.

- The marginal rate of tax down will fall to a maximum of 49.5 per cent for all people earning under €70,044 .

- Free pre-school childcare will be available for children from 3 years until they start primary education or reach the age of five and a half years.

- The Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients will be restored to 75 per cent of the recipient’s weekly payment. It means a pensioner on €230 will receive a bonus of €173. A dole claimant receiving unemployment benefit of €188 will get a bonus of €141.

- The old age pension will increase by €3 per week from January.

- Child benefit is to increase by €5 per month to €140 from January.

- The respite care grant for carers will be restored to its previous level of €1,700.

- The Government is to legislate for two weeks of statutory paternity leave.

- The fuel allowance will be increased by €2.50 per week to €22.50.

- Minister for Health Leo Varadkar will receive funding to extend the free GP care scheme to children aged under 12 (subject to negotiations).

- Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will be in a position to recruit up to 600 extra gardaí and is receiving funds to improve Garda technology.

- Some 2,200 new teachers will be hired in an effort to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level from 28:1 to 27:1 and at second level from 19:1 to 18.7:1.

- The threshold for the Family Income Support payment is to increase by €5 per week for families with one child and €10 for those with two or more children.

- Owners of commercial vehicles above a certain size will have their motor tax significantly reduced. The maximum rate will be €900 compared to a current top level of €5,195.

- A tax credit for people who are carers in the home rises by €190 to €1,000. The income threshold for home carers also increases.

- The Capital Acquisitions Tax tax-free threshold, which covers the transfer of properties between parents and their children, rises from €225,000 to €280,000.

- A reduced Capital Gains Tax rate of 20 per cent (rather than 33 per cent) will apply to the disposal in whole or part of a business up to an overall limit of €1 million in chargeable gains.

- There will be an Earned Income Tax Credit to the value of €550 for people with earned income, such as the self-employed and farmers, who do not have access to a PAYE credit.

- The bank levy is to remain in place until 2021 which is expected to bring in an addition €750million over the period.

- The pension fund levy (now 0.15 per cent) will be abolished in 2016.

- A stamp duty exemption for young trained farmers is to be extended for a further three years to the end of 2018.

- The cap on eligible expenditure for the film tax credit is being increased to €70 million.

- Nama is to deliver 20,000 residential units before the end of 2020 with 90 per cent of these to be in the greater Dublin area. This will cost €4.5 billion which Mr Noonan said would be recouped.

- Income that qualifies for the Knowledge Development Box will be subject to a reduced rate of corporation tax of 6.25 per cent.

- The statutory minimum wage is to rise from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour from January as previously recommended by the Low Pay Commission.

- New housing measures include public private partnerships, funding for homeless services, increased mortgage to rent and increases in housing assistance levels for those facing homelessness in Dublin.

- Some €50m has been provided to pay for events and initiatives under the commemorations programme for the 1916 Rising centenary.