Government doesn’t know how many availed of ‘cycle-to-work’ scheme

Almost a decade after introduction no figures on cost of tax relief or impact on bike prices

A ‘Bike-to-Work’ lunchtime cycle in 2013. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A ‘Bike-to-Work’ lunchtime cycle in 2013. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Government has been criticised for failing to review the operation and cost of the cycle-to-work tax-relief scheme, which encourages employees to commute on two wheels.

The scheme, introduced almost 10 years ago, gives tax breaks of up to €1,000 to buy a bicycle and equipment such as lights, lock and a helmet. It is administered through an employee’s workplace.

When it was introduced the government anticipated an uptake of about 7,000 in the first five years of the scheme but it has no figures on how many people actually availed of the tax relief.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe acknowledged that “the Revenue Commissioners do not have statistics on the uptake of the scheme”.

He told Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall in reply to a parliamentary question that the scheme operated on a self-administration basis and the employer did not have to engage in a notification procedure.

“This approach was taken with the deliberate intention of keeping the scheme simple and reducing administration on the part of employers.”

Price inflation

Ms Shortall had sought details of the scheme including the numbers availing of it, the cost to the exchequer, and what impact “the scheme has had on inflation in the market for new bicycles”.

The Dublin North-West TD, who has not personally availed of the scheme, said it was worthwhile for providing an incentive for workers to get out of their cars and to start cycling to work.

“But I’m very surprised that no information is gathered on the impact of the scheme given that it is a draw on the public purse. Like all tax relief schemes this scheme should be measured so its uptake and impact can be assessed, both in terms of the number of workers who have availed of it and also to see whether its introduction has had any impact on retail prices for new bikes.”

The Minister pointed out that the purchase of bikes and safety equipment is subject to normal Revenue audit procedures.

Mr Donohoe added that he had not asked Revenue to conduct any specific analysis such as that suggested by Ms Shortall but “I would advise her that all such schemes are reviewed in the context of the annual budget and Finance Bill process”.