Mary Mitchell O’Connor defends emigrant tax proposal

Minister for Jobs concedes her 30 per cent tax proposal will not be in next week’s budget

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor has defended her decision to propose a 30 per cent tax to attract emigrants back to Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor has defended her decision to propose a 30 per cent tax to attract emigrants back to Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Minister of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell-O’Connor has defended her decision to propose a 30 per cent tax to attract emigrants back to Ireland.

It would have allowed those earning €75,000 or more to pay just 30 per cent tax on their income if they returned to Ireland subject to time limits.

The proposal was immediately dismissed in the Dáil by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny as “unfair and discriminatory”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described it as a “bananas idea”.

In her first public comments following the dismissal of the proposal, the minister said: “It’s not all about Mary Mitchell O’Connor. I’m a much bigger person than that. I know that I have a really important job.

“As I go around the country, I’m hearing from parents and grandparents that they do want their children to come back.”

She explained the proposal was only one of a number contained in a 32 page tax submission from her department.

It was due to be part of the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP), a tax relief aimed at those proposing to bring employment to Ireland from abroad.

SARP allows income tax relief on a portion of employment income earned by a nominated employee who brings work to Ireland.

When asked if it had been better to have discussed it at cabinet before going public on it, Mrs Mitchell O’Connor said a similar idea had been made in advance of the 2016 budget.

“There was nothing that new in that proposal,” she said. “Our emigrants are very well educated. They were put on a plane by Fianna Fáil. We want to bring them back.

“There is a shortage of skills in this country. Every CEO I meet, every boardroom I meet, it is the one thing they keep asking me. One is about skills, the other is about accommodation and housing.”

She said the Programme for Government had committed to bring back 70,000 Irish emigrants from abroad.

“It is really important that we have jobs in rural and regional areas,” she said.

“I’m from the country myself, north Galway. I’m absolutely passionate that that happens.”

Speaking at a community day for the proposed Center Parcs development in Ballymahon, Co Longford, Mrs Mitchell O’Connor conceded her 30 per cent tax proposal would not be in next week’s budget.

“That’s not really the issue,” she said, “my job is to make sure that companies coming to Ireland and that our own indigenous companies are able to grow, that our local enterprise offices are going to grow.”