Former minister of state Roisín Shortall has accused senior Ministers, civil servants and advisors of having a personal vested interest in their approach to dealing with pension tax relief.
In a scathing attack on her former leader, Ms Shortall accused Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore of failing to act on promises he made last year to deal with “this gross area of inequity”.
Speaking during a debate on a resolution which eliminates tax relief on lump sum payments of over €200,000, she asked Mr Gilmore: “On what basis do you believe it’s in any way fair that a person should be able to receive a lump sum of €200,000 entirely tax free. What’s the basis for continuing with that kind of regime?”
She said she had to ask if the failure to tackle the issue “has to do with the fact that those who were responsible for crafting this Budget, the four senior Ministers in Cabinet, their four secretaries general, their four advisors are all in the kind of bracket where they can benefit substantially from the largesse of the existing ridiculously generous pension regime”.
Instead of dealing with a “standout area in terms of unfairness” the Tánaiste had chosen instead to hit families and to ensure families with incomes worth a mere €18,000 will be caught for about €1,000 a year, Ms Shortall claimed.
Ms Shortall added that the cost to taxpayers of the “unbelievably generous” tax relief regime on pensions at €2.5 billion was similar to the cost of child benefit
She said this was an area with a potential for delivering at least €400 million if they had delivered on the programme for government commitments and introduced a cap on pension tax relief, to allow a still very generous regime to continue where people on incomes of €120,000 could retain entitlements of pensions of up to €60,000.
But rounding on his former colleague, Mr Gilmore said the minimum a TD should do was to read the Budget before making a contribution.
He said the measure under debate was being introduced because the Government believed it was unfair that anyone getting a severance payment of more than €200,000 had had a more favourable tax regime.
Rejecting Ms Shortall’s claims that the Government was not dealing with pensions above €60,000, Mr Gilmore said the Government had announced this afternoon that the commitment on dealing with pension contributions that generate annual income of €60,000 or more would be implemented.
He said there was also the elimination of the 4 per cent more favourable USC regime for pensions over €60,000. These he said, were just three of the 14 separate tax measures which address the issue of wealth. Those 14 measures would raise €646 million in a full year.
He was in the Dáil for 23 years and “I have never seen a budget that has introduced more measures which will raise more money on taxes on wealth in this country than this budget does”.