Friday 23 March 2018

Brexit fears allayed as tax take on target ahead of Budget

Independent Alliance demand cash for carers and farmers

Minister: Paschal Donohoe Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister: Paschal Donohoe Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Department of Finance is expecting to announce "robust" tax revenue intake when it publishes the final exchequer returns before the Budget this week.

Both income tax and VAT returns are on target for September and are expected to add around €4.3bn to the State's coffers.

The positive tax returns have allayed fears within the Government of Brexit having a significant impact on next year's budget.

"Everybody is concerned about what might be coming down the line with Brexit but it looks like the figures will be robust this month," a senior Department of Finance source said.

However, it is expected the budget will contain a number of measures directly aimed at limiting any potential backlash from the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

Initiatives that will attract international investment and protect the economy from a change in trading arrangements with the UK will feature prominently in this month's Budget.

The main fear within the Department of Finance remains the implication a drop in currency values in either the pound or the euro could have on Irish businesses.

Meanwhile, budget negotiations are set to intensify this week as Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe thrashes out the Government's final spending plans with his Cabinet colleagues.

The Independent Alliance put pressure on Fine Gael last week to reduce the prescription charge and increase the old age pension.

The group is also looking for additional benefits for small farmers and the introduction of a rural social scheme.

Junior Minister Sean Canney said the Independent Alliance wants "to take ownership" of policies it was responsible for including in the Programme for Government.

"We will be putting our stamp on all of these issues. Some of these measures will be brought in by other ministers but it will be at the behest of the Independent Alliance who agreed it in the Programme for Government," Mr Canney told the Sunday Independent.

"We want to make sure the ownership of these measures are identified," he added.

Fault lines are also emerging in government over increasing allowances for carers.

It is understood Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has sought the support of Independent Alliance members as he pushes to have the allowance increased.

Mr Canney said he recently spoke to Mr Varadkar about increasing benefits and reliefs for carers.

"We will support ministers who support any of the initiatives that we brought into the Programme for Government," he said.

Fianna Fail also held a number of meetings with Government ministers last week where it is understood they demanded significant spending in the area of health.

This includes substantial funding for the National Purchase Treatment Fund and additional funding for speech and language therapists, and physios for families with children with disabilities.

The party also has concerns that the proposed first-time buyer scheme only applies to new builds

However, Fianna Fail's public expenditure and reform spokesman Dara Calleary yesterday insisted the party is "not trying to write the Budget".

"We will have inputs in the Budget that reflect the priority we have attached to fairness and to services as agreed in the confidence and supply arrangement," Mr Calleary said.

Sunday Independent

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