Friday 30 September 2016

Work expenses are worth claiming but system is in need of an overhaul

Expenses for your employment are worth claiming but the system is dated and discriminatory and must be overhauled by Revenue

Published 24/03/2016 | 02:30

It is strange that a waitress can only claim €64 in what is called flat-rate expenses from Revenue, whereas a waiter can claim €97 a year
It is strange that a waitress can only claim €64 in what is called flat-rate expenses from Revenue, whereas a waiter can claim €97 a year

YOU would think in this day and age that we have long left behind us the situation where women are treated differently to men in a job.

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Well, the sad fact is that we still discriminate against women in this country.

The irony is that the outgoing government had a female Tánaiste, a female Minister for Justice and a female Minister for Education.

Until recently, the Revenue Commissioners had a woman in charge of it.

And as many women as men work in Revenue - a fact that was pointed out to me recently by the tax authority when it asked me to stop referring to Revenue as the "taxman".

Given that, it must be a source of acute embarrassment to Revenue that some women in employment can claim less in tax-free expenses than men doing the same job.

This is nothing short of gender discrimination, something that was supposed to be eradicated in this country in the 1970s.

Strange, then, that a waitress can only claim €64 in what is called flat-rate expenses from Revenue, whereas a waiter can claim €97 a year.

These are expenses that are incurred in the performance of the duties of the employment and are directly related to the "nature of the employee's employment", according to Revenue.

A standard flat rate expenses allowance (deduction) is set for various classes of employee.

The levels of the expenses that can be claimed for each job were set mainly through negotiation with Revenue by representative bodies and unions over the past 20 years.

This has led to many inconsistencies. The system desperately needs to be reformed.

The level of expense that can be claimed is often down to the skill of those negotiating with Revenue.

This means a kitchen porter can claim just €21 a year, but someone who performs in the RTÉ Concert Orchestra is entitled to €2,476, according to senior tax manager with Taxback.com Barry Flanagan.

He says the anomaly where a waitress is entitled to less than a waiter must be a source of acute embarrassment to Revenue. Waitresses should claim the male rate, he says.

The system works in reverse for cardiac technicians. For reasons that are not clear, female technicians can claim €212 a year, with males only entitled to €107.

The other problem is that very few claim the expense, even though it is effectively free money.

Questions submitted in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath show that just 517,000 people claimed allowable allowances in 2013. The total cost of this was €70.9m.

It seems that a lot of people are unaware that they can claim expenses for money spent in the course of their employment. After all, there are now close to two million people employed in this country.

Asked about the system, a spokeswoman for the Revenue said the figure for waitresses and waiters was put in place in the 1950s, and last reviewed in 1986.

She added that Revenue in 2014 tried to meet unions and representative bodies to update and review the flat-rate expenses regime across a number of occupations, especially when it comes to gender differences. The unions and other bodies have cancelled a number of meetings, she said.

If that is the case, then Revenue really needs to do its own review of the flat-rate expense regime.

Gender discrimination is not something the tax authorities should put up with.

Irish Independent

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