Struggling workers in record €648m tax clawback
Workers clawed back a record €648m from the taxman last year, new figures reveal.
The number of people obtaining tax refunds has trebled to 1.4 million in five years.
As wage cuts kicked in and people lost their jobs, households moved to boost their diminishing incomes by trawling through their tax-refund entitlements.
In 2004, just 402,000 people claimed tax credits totalling €277.7m.
The top five areas for tax-back claims covered medical expenses, rent, service charges, trade-union subscriptions and flat-rate expenses. Medical expenses, covering GP visits and hospital charges, led to payments of some €102m.
A spokeswoman for the Revenue Commissioners said the "huge growth" in claims was a clear indication that its efforts to inform people of their entitlements had been successful.
"We're not complacent, however," she added, pointing out that there was now a 24-hour service for PAYE workers online.
Under the Revenue Commissioners' rules, taxpayers are entitled to claim tax reliefs within four years of incurring the original costs. Tax credits are offered on a number of items including medical expenses, tuition fees, rent, bin charges and charitable donations.
In 2006, 123,391 claims were made in the health area at a value of €33m, rising sharply to 190,145 in 2007 with claims valued at €55.35m. Last year, that rocketed to a payout of €102m.
Fine Gael's Denis Naughten said people were "now tight for cash and looking for it in every corner". He claimed many taxpayers were unaware they could submit medical expenses once they haven't been reimbursed by private health insurers. A range of tax credits also covers the costs of nursing-home care, third-level tuition fees and rent in private accommodation.
The Tax Institute has previously argued for the creation of an 'advocate for taxpayers' in the form of an independent body to help provide advice to PAYE workers.