A New-Year blitz of crippling charges and stealth tax hikes will drive up the cost of living for working families by thousands of euro in 2014, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The onslaught on the so-called 'coping classes' includes crippling Budget measures such as increasing levies on pensions, slashing tax relief on health insurance and a big hike in Dirt tax on savings.
The Sunday Independent has also learned that the health insurance companies will, within weeks, slap their own 10 per cent hike on medical cover – just in time to hit the one in four who renew their policies on January 1.
Even without the hike of 10 per cent in premiums, told to the Sunday Independent by a senior source in the health insurance industry, the real cost of the Government's attack on private health care is becoming clear after Finance Minister Michael Noonan set the level of tax relief on health insurance policies in the budget at €1,000 per adult and €500 per child.
An analysis for the Sunday Independent by medical insurance expert Dermot Goode shows that while the change won't impact children, it will hit those older people with comprehensive cover.
"If you are on a lower cost affordable insurance plan it means a hike of about €39 per adult. But if you are on a mid-range level 2 plan favoured by older people who do not want to be hit with excess hospital charges for hip or knee replacements or a heart by-pass surgery etc, you will be hit with an extra €170 to €250," Mr Goode said.
"For an older couple that's as much as €500 to find.
"Those on gold-plated plans like the old VHI plan D or E are going to have to pay between €470 and €784 each per year just to keep the same level of cover. That is purely as a result of the budget and doesn't take into account the 10 to 15 per cent cumulative increases we expect to be announced before Christmas."
Michael Horan, spokesperson for Insurance Ireland which represents the four main health insurers operating here, says that 1.2 million people will have to pay more for their health insurance because of the Budget change.
It means further stress on hard-pressed householders who last week received reminder letters that from January 1 they must pay the first full year's property tax.
A Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown poll reveals half of voters think the country is still on the wrong track, despite stomaching seven consecutive austerity Budgets.
And six out of 10 people say they are now worse off than they were last year.
In all, 45 per cent feel this time next year they will be worse off while just 14 per cent feel they will be better off.
Since it was introduced three years ago Finance Minister Michael Noonan repeatedly promised the pensions levy would expire at the end of 2014. Instead he made another raid on private pensions. The 0.6 per cent levy rate will be increased to 0.75 per cent for 2014 and stay on for 2015 at a lower 0.15 per cent.
Pensions expert Tony Gilhawley said that in simple terms if a taxpayer has a pensions fund of €100,000, the Government will take €750 out of it in 2014 and another €150 out of it in 2015.
"But you have to bear in mind that he has already taken 0.6 per cent in 2011, another 0.6 per cent in 2012 and the same in 2013. So over the five years it will be in operation until the end of 2015, it will be a cumulative 2.7 per cent or €2,700 out of your €100,000 pension pot," Mr Gilhawley said.
The Government has also raided savings. Deposit Interest Retention Tax (Dirt) increased from 33 per cent to 41 per cent. That will hit some €91.5bn of householders' savings on deposit in banks.
But in a move which passed almost unnoticed, the 41 per cent rate will become the rate of exit tax on investment funds and life assurance policies.
Travel fares on monthly, annual and tax-saver tickets with Dublin Bus, Iarnrod Eireann, Bus Eireann and Luas services will rise by up to 10.5 per cent from November 1. Cash fares, Leap Card and pre-paid tickets will increase by more than eight per cent from December 1. Yet, despite this, nearly seven in 10 feel now is a good time to buy a house and 48 per cent are convinced house prices will rise next year.
But according to the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll 57 per cent of respondents believe the banks are not doing enough to help potential house buyers.