Written Answers Nos. 31-53
Dáil Éireann Debate
Written Answers Nos. 31-53
Carer's Allowance Appeals
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, decided to disallow or allow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 8 December 2014.
Jobseeker's Allowance Data
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): There was a total of 4,738 recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance and Jobseeker’s Benefit at the end of January 2015 who were 65 years of age and over. A further 2,812 persons in this age category were signing for credits at that date. A breakdown of these claimants is detailed in the tabular statement.
Community Employment Schemes Operation
33. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her views on the relaxation of the current time limits and capping rules, placed on participants of community employment schemes, who are a year off retirement; if she will grant these participants a special exemption to allow them to work until they are 66 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6231/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): There are no plans to relax the current participation limits placed on participants of community employment (CE) schemes who may be just a year off retirement and there are no plans to grant those that fall into this category a special exemption to be allowed to work on CE until they reach 66 years of age (state pension age). These requirements are there to ensure that there are adequate places available to long-term unemployed and other vulnerable groups to participate on CE and gain qualifications for to enable them to gain employment.
Jobseeker's Allowance Data
34. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of claimants in County Donegal who are on the live register in 2015 and are signing on as casuals on a qualifying jobseeker's benefit-jobseeker's allowance payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6233/15]
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information relating to a claimant’s address is not currently coded to the geographical location of the address. As such it is not possible to accurately report persons on the live register living in a particular area at present.
35. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if there is a system set-up whereby a person can reclaim credited contributions, if they are entitled to, and did not sign on for before 1994, when the home-maker credits were introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6234/15]
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The homemaker’s scheme was introduced in 1994 to make qualification for State pension contributory (SPC) easier for those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children under 12 years of age, or incapacitated people, to be disregarded when a person’s social insurance record is being calculated for pension purposes. The effect of this is to reduce the number of years by which the person’s contributions are divided, thereby increasing their yearly average, making it easier for them to qualify for a maximum rate SPC. It does not, therefore, involve the award of credits.
It is important to note that the homemaker’s scheme will not, of itself, qualify a person for a SPC. The standard qualifying conditions for the SPC must also be satisfied. These require a person to enter insurable employment at least ten years before pension age, pay a minimum of 520 contributions at the correct rate (credited contributions do not satisfy this condition) and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions paid or credited on their record.
- The means-tested State pension (non-contributory). The maximum personal rate of this pension is €219, which may be payable if their means are no more than €30 per week. A reduced rate may be payable if their means are no more than €245 per week. A living alone allowance may also be paid, where applicable.
- If widowed, they may qualify for a widow's contributory pension, which they may claim either based on their spouse’s or their own social insurance record. The qualifying conditions for this require fewer contributions paid (260) than the SPC, and the maximum personal rate for those aged 66 or over is €230.30.
The homemaker’s scheme was introduced from 1994, and as with most schemes, this was without retrospective effect. Costs in relation to this scheme, under the current rules, are expected to increase in the coming years due to the increase in female employment rates since 1994. The cost of backdating was considered in the context of the Green Paper on Pensions in 2007. At that time, very tentative estimates suggested that the cost of backdating to 1953 would be approximately €160 million annually. These additional costs would be very significant and consequently, the Government has no plans to backdate this scheme prior to 1994. Any decision to change the scheme would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations.
Fuel Allowance Data
36. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of applicants in receipt of a winter fuel allowance at the start of the 2014-2015 season who had their eligibility revoked due to a social welfare payment change, that is, applicants on jobseeker's allowance changing to illness benefit, in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6236/15]
State Pension (Contributory) Data
37. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will provide the figures, categorised on the basis of sex, for the number of persons who are currently in receipt of reduced State contributory pensions, due to the rate band changes she implemented on 1 September 2012, whereby rate band 20 to 47 was abolished and replaced by rate bands 20 to 29, 30 to 39 and 40 to 47; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6253/15]
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and has been requested. The Department will contact the Deputy directly when the information becomes available.
38. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her views on a complaint regarding the treatment of people collecting benefits (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6257/15]
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The Intreo Centre in Parnell Street caters for well in excess of 10,000 clients, many of whom have regular engagements of various types with the office. In the context of such a large clientele, the amount of complaints received concerning the office is minimal. The most recent statistics available show that in the last 3 months there has been less than 10 complaints received via the complaints procedure on the Department’s website in relation to the office. Additionally an even smaller number of individual complaints have been made in writing.
In relation to the nature of the complaints, only 2 of these concerned difficulties that clients experienced with regard to the manner in which they were dealt with in the office. These are being handled by directly contacting the clients concerned. The other issues raised, which include calculation of overpayments and reasons for decisions made, are also being handled currently or have been resolved.
There are currently 12 clients required to attend the office to sign on a daily basis. The option to request a client to sign daily can be taken in certain circumstances. Such circumstances can be when a client has a record of persistently signing late, an officer has formed the opinion that there a strong likelihood that a client may be currently in employment in the black economy, or a Deciding Officer is of the opinion that a client is not making sufficient efforts to seek employment or to avail of training opportunities. In most cases daily signing is supplemented by frequent interviews monitoring a client’s progress in seeking employment and/or training. The success rate of this approach is high; the majority of clients required to sign daily will avail of one of the Department’s Labour Activation measures within a short timeframe.
Community Employment Schemes Funding
39. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to reversing cuts to the pensions and other rights of persons participating in community employment schemes contained in section 7 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6272/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): There are no plans to allow new participants on the Community Employment (CE) programme to retain their original social welfare payments while employed on the scheme and receiving concurrent CE allowances. The main enactment of this measure was contained in Section 12 of the Social Welfare Act 2011. The main purpose of CE is to assist and support long-term unemployed and other vulnerable groups to gain the necessary skills and confidence with a view to gaining employment.
Universal Social Charge Yield
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 to 42, inclusive, together.
Tax Relief Application
43. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance his views on lowering the limit to claim back tax on charitable donations, particularly with respect to encouraging persons to donate to voluntary and community initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6201/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief at a blended rate of 31% on donations made by individuals to eligible charities and other approved bodies. In order to qualify for the tax relief currently, a minimum donation of €250 per annum must be made to the body concerned.
- A blended rate of relief of 31% applies to all taxpayers regardless of their marginal tax rate. All donations are grossed up as was previously done for donations from individuals within the PAYE collection system.
- The charitable donations scheme has been removed from the scope of the high earners' restriction in recognition of the fact that donors will no longer benefit from the tax relief associated with their donations.
These changes were made following a process of engagement between officials at the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners with representatives of the charities sector from the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTR).
The objectives of that process were threefold: (i) to simplify the operation of the regime, (ii) to reduce the administrative overheads on charities and on the Revenue Commissioners incurred in the operation of the scheme, and (iii) to ensure that any change would be Revenue neutral from the Exchequer perspective. The proposals for the changes were also recommended in the Report of the Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising.
The €250 threshold has not changed since it was introduced in 2002. Normal inflation levels effectively have reduced the value of the threshold over time. In addition, the donations scheme was introduced to encourage the donation of large sums of money to charities and certain other bodies. It was never envisaged that the scheme should subsidise smaller donations, which in all likelihood, would be made in any event.
The tax relief available for donations is already very generous and donations can be cumulative, such that a donation of just €5 per week over the course of a year would qualify. However, tax relief is no longer provided to individual donors and is refunded directly to the approved bodies. It is therefore questionable as to whether reducing the €250 limit would result in additional donations.
NAMA Property Leases
44. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance if he will address concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding a proposal by a person to establish a small business in a property controlled by the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6206/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): As the Deputy will be aware, NAMA is not the owner or operator of properties. NAMA's role is, like a bank, that of a secured lender. Other than properties that have been enforced, all of which are listed on NAMA's website and which are managed by the appointed receivers/administrators, properties continue to be managed by their existing owners or their professional managers/agents albeit NAMA takes a very close interest in their efficient management and sale with a view to maximum loan repayment in order to protect the position of Irish taxpayers.
45. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the action that will be taken to deal with the very serious issues raised in the Raidió Teilifís Éireann "Primetime" programme on 5 February 2015, regarding a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6228/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Central Bank has informed me that it cannot comment on its engagement with individual entities.
Disabled Drivers Grant Appeals
46. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a disabled drivers scheme appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6229/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, and exemption from motor tax in respect of that vehicle and, up to a certain limit, assistance in respect of fuel costs. To qualify for the scheme, an applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate.
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I would advise the Deputy that unlike the Home Renovation Incentive that is currently in place, there were no specific tax incentives available for individuals who carried out home improvement works in 2012. However, Mortgage Interest Relief (MIR) is available in respect of interest paid on qualifying loans used to purchase, repair, develop or improve a home.
In order for a loan to qualify for MIR, loan approval must have been in place before the end of 2012. In addition, part of the loan must have been used in 2012. As the Deputy may be aware, where an individual is in receipt of MIR, they will continue to qualify for such relief up until the end of 2017.
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have contacted the person concerned to request Form P60 for 2014.
Universal Social Charge Application
49. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance the projected cost to the Exchequer in 2015 for reducing the rate of universal social charge on income over €100,000 to 8% for the self-employed. [6301/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated first and full year cost to the Exchequer of reducing the Universal Social Charge (USC) on self-employed income in excess of €100,000 from 11% to 8% is €54 million and €125 million respectively.
All figures above are estimates for 2015, using the actual data for the year 2012 (the latest year for which data are available) adjusted as necessary for income, self-employment and employment trends in the interim. They are provisional and may be revised.
National Minimum Wage
50. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide, in tabular form, the projected increase in tax revenue in 2015 if the national minimum wage was increased to €9.65; to €10.65; and to €11.45. [6302/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that workers earning the minimum wage are not separately identified on Revenue records, and therefore it is not possible to estimate the additional yield to the Exchequer from increasing the minimum wage as outlined. The complexities of estimating the increased yield from income taxation would require, among other information, details of (i) the number of hours worked by the relevant individuals, (ii) whether they are singly or jointly assessed, and (iii) how tax credits are assigned between spouses.
51. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to invite the new Greek Finance Minister, Mr Yanis Varoufakis, to Dublin to discuss a eurozone debt conference and a possible write-down of Greek debt, especially in view of the huge per capita levels of debt in Ireland and Greece. [6311/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I have no plans to discuss a euro area debt conference with the new Greek Finance Minister in Dublin.
52. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide, in tabular form, details of the interest incurred on the gross national debt for each year from 2010 to 2014 under the headings State savings schemes, benchmark bonds, amortising bonds, floating rate bonds, European Financial Stability Facility loans, European Financial Stabilisation Mechanisation loans, European Union bilateral loans, International Monetary Fund loans, short-term debt and other interest paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6337/15]
53. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide, in tabular form, a breakdown of the interest received from cash and other financial assets that are offset against the gross national debt, to arrive at the national debt figure for each year from 2010 to 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6338/15]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 53 together.
Rounding may affect totals
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