Donohoe to examine tax reliefs for people working remotely

Minister concerned workers will miss out on picking up knowledge gained sitting among colleagues

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe  said many workers  starting new jobs while remote working was encouraged   would not have the opportunity to meet  peers and learn from them. Image: iStock.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said many workers starting new jobs while remote working was encouraged would not have the opportunity to meet peers and learn from them. Image: iStock.

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has pledged to examine tax reliefs in the budget for people who are working remotely as he warned there had to be “equity” between working from home and in the office.

“We need to get the balance right,” he said.

Mr Donohoe told Independent TD Denis Naughten that “we do need to find a safe way over time in which we can encourage those who want to work in offices to be able to go back”. For those who either do not want to work in the office “or don’t need to do it, we can find a way in which working from home is something that can be sustained”, he said.

During finance questions in the Dáil, Mr Naughten said there was not much equity for couples trying to get on the housing ladder in Dublin or for families who spent hours in traffic or queueing to try and get childcare spaces.

“We have a situation where we have the schools, we have the childcare facilities, we have streets that haven’t seen a child kick a ball for a generation on them across rural communities.”

The Roscommon-Galway TD said there was an opportunity through remote working to take pressure off Dublin’s infrastructure and bring life back to rural communities. He said the Government should aim to have one third of employees working remotely within five years.

Tax code

“And there needs to be a concerted positive effort in terms of the tax code to support people to work remotely, or to have blended working.”

He said that properties with home office potential “are being snapped up around the country” and an estate agent in Roscommon named “Séamus Carthy has now 43 potential buyers on a waiting list for homes with garden space but this needs direction and support from government if it’s going to happen”.

The Minister said there were supports already available in the tax code including a tax free payment of up to €3.20 a day by an employer to employees working remotely to cover costs such as heating, broadband and electricity.

“Of course in the context of the budget it is something that we will re-examine. I will make the point though that we do need a balance in all of this.”

Mr Donohoe had been referred to in media at the weekend as being privately concerned about the amount of empty office space across Dublin.

But he told Mr Naughten he was “publicly concerned about it”.

He said many workers were starting new jobs and would not have the opportunity to be able to go to an office to sit with peers and learn from them.

“And I’m also concerned about what it could mean, if we make and prolong a reality of many people working from home, and not being able to access the kind of skill development and knowledge that happens when you’re sitting near and working with other colleagues.”

Undermine

Mr Naughten asked if the Minister’s concern about empty offices “could be a vehicle used to undermine the objective of blended working and remote working to shore up the pension funds”.

Former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy expressed concern about the long-term impact on the city centre “where people may not be returning to work at least five days a week, and that’s a permanent reduction in footfall”.

He said there was an opportunity for existing office developments “to become something else” and support the Dublin economy that was being damaged because of the “more permanent changes that people are making in their working lives”.

Mr Donohoe said the issue was not specific to Dublin.

“It’s a comment about the wellbeing and future development particularly for workers who are in the early phase of their careers.”