Tuesday 27 September 2016

Motorists are the forgotten victims of the austerity taxes

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

Motorists: Under fire from every angle
Motorists: Under fire from every angle

ONE of the silent victims of the savage downturn we are living through is the motorist. It seems it is not fashionable to defend drivers, but the truth is that those who have to sit behind a wheel to get to work, or deliver children to school, have been singled out for some pretty harsh treatment.

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Often these financial hits on drivers are dressed up as a laudable attempt to save us from environmental degradation. The carbon tax on petrol and diesel is one such attempt to dress up what is nothing more than a tax as something else.

The reality is that over the past six years drivers have been sacrificed at the altar of austerity just like whole swathes of Irish society.

And of course drivers are not a separate and distinct group – those with a car also have mortgages, bank accounts, pay vastly higher income and VAT taxes, as well as punishingly high private health insurance premiums.

What is odd about those who drive is that their concerns, and the pummelling they get from the Exchequer, do not get more attention, save for the valiant efforts of Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland.

After all, this is a country where public transport is expensive and only patchy outside cities and major towns.

We are a rural-based country, which accounts for the fact that we have one of the highest rates of car usage in Europe.

That helps to explain the latest rise in the number of new cars registered. For the year up to May, there were close to 60,000 new cars registered, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

We need our cars.

But none of this has stopped successive Governments seeing the driver as a soft target.

Around €1 in every €10 of all taxes paid are imposed on drivers in the form of vehicle registration tax, VAT, duties on petrol and diesel, carbon tax and motor tax.

All of these taxes amounted to €4.3bn last year. That is out of a total Exchequer total revenue of €37.8bn.

And the figure excludes tolls, which are up to €10 at peak times on the likes of the Port Tunnel, and the ridiculous parking charges at train stations – as if the fares were not high enough.

Anyone from outside the country looking at this would conclude that motoring must be a luxury that deserves punitive levels of taxation.

Tax on petrol alone amounted to €850m last year, with diesel generating €1.13bn for the State, figures compiled by Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath show.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said recently he was very aware of all the sacrifices made by all taxpayers.

However, the Government needs to wake up to the fact that the car is a necessity for most families.

Twitter: @Cweston_Indo

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