Tuesday 17 September 2019

Revealed: The 'stealth taxes' that will fund Budget measures, as minimum wage is set to rise

  • Stamp duty to rise to 5pc
  • Minimum wage to be raised by 30c
  • Sugar tax, a hike on cigarettes, and higher carbon taxes
  • Government warned move could harm housing market further
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A day before he takes to his feet Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is facing backlash over some tax increases he is considering in order to fund a number of Budget measures.

The Irish Independent is reporting that in order to deliver his “balanced Budget” the minister will turn to 'stealth taxes', including a tax hike on land sales.

This move could see stamp duty on commercial property transactions rise to as high as 5pc, which last year raised €256m at a 2pc rate.

However, Savills Ireland has warned that the rise could worsen the housing shortage as developers will struggle in the face of higher construction costs to bring properties to the market, the paper reports.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) also said that the cost of building “has resulted in the greatest shortage of supply in this sector in the history of the State”.

Other measures expected to be introduced by the Government on Tuesday include a sugar tax, a hike on cigarettes, and higher carbon taxes.

Meanwhile, minimum wage is to rise  by 30c to €9.55.

Here is everything we know so far:

Tax cuts

A cut to the much-hated USC and a tweaking of income tax bands will be included in next week’s Budget following a compromise between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in an effort to ensure that the budget will pass.

As part of a compromise deal being hammered out between Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Fianna Fáil, it has been agreed that a double-edge approach to personal taxation will be taken.

The USC cut will help the ‘squeezed middle’ earning up to €70,000 a year, while the tax band changes will benefit people on salaries over €33,800.

However, the net increase in workers’ pay packets is likely to be less than €20 a month.

The move is expected to cost in the region of €300m.

Pension and social welfare payments

Photo: Stock

It is understood that details of a social welfare package are still being finalised.

The Sunday Independent revealed that the entire cost of the social welfare package being discussed by the Government could come to €450m.

Fine Gael has previously indicated that it does not believe in raising one payment over another and an increase of €5 is being looked at across-the-board.

However, it is understood that the government is considering delaying the introduction of the hikes to mitigate the cost.


It is expected that the Help to Buy scheme is to be retained, with little or no amendments to the first-time buyers grant scheme.

Homeowners are expected to further benefit as mortgage relief, which was due to expire at the end of this year, may be extended.


Parents are not getting their hopes up ahead of Tuesday's Budget with no changes to child benefit expected and very slight increases in other social welfare payments.

It is expected that the bereavement grant will be brought back but will not match the previous once-off payment amount.

Under previous commitments to increase the threshold on inheritance tax from a parent to a child to €500,000 another increase in the threshold is expected this year. In last year's budget it was raised to €310,000 but it is unlikely that this year will see the ceiling raised to the full €500,000.

Christmas bonuses for social welfare recipients will be paid but not at the full 100pc rate.



The price of diesel is expected to remain unchanged in Budget 2018, despite speculation it could be equalised with petrol.

According to AA the average price of a litre of diesel is currently €1.22. This already includes taxes totalling almost 73c.

Petrol is around €1.35 at the average pump, including 86c in tax.

Meanwhile, the Budget will include a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging a greater uptake of electric vehicles.

A series of long-term measures are under consideration, with a focus on incentives to encourage a change in driver behaviour.

It is understood initiatives are being planned in particular to encourage the purchase of second-hand electric vehicles.

Cigarettes and alcohol

While diesel is likely to be left untouched, sources say excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco will rise.

It will be the sixth consecutive budget to see an increase in the price of cigarettes.

Last year, then finance minister Michael Noonan added 50c to a packet of 20 cigarettes, bringing the price to more than €11 for the first time. A 50c increase is also expected this week.

It is not yet clear whether Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has any plans to change the excise duty on alcohol.

Sugar Tax

sugar tax.jpg
Sugar tax Photo: PA

A sugar tax is certain to feature in Mr Donohoe's Budget speech but will not be introduced before April 2018.

In an attempt to raise extra revenue the Government are exploring a number of tax initiatives with a charge on fizzy drinks top of the list.

It is expected the ‘sugar tax’ will come into force for April 2018, on the same day that a similar levy is being introduced in the UK.


Fianna Fáil have sought a number of measures to bring about improvement in education, among them an increase in guidance counsellors, investment in third level and a reduction of the pupil-teacher ratio by one point to 25:1.

The party wants to increase taxes for employers to fund investment in third-level education.

Micheál Martin’s party has proposed increasing the  National Training Funding levy on employers via PRSI by 0.1pc, which would raise an additional €66m. 

In a Budget document seen by Independent.ie Fianna Fáil suggests increasing the employer tax from 0.7pc to 0.8pc.

This would be on top of another €44m the party believes should be taken from Exchequer funding to increase grants to third-level institutions.

In terms of public services, the figures of over 500 new teachers and at least 800 new gardai have been spoken about.


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Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath

Mr Varadkar has indicated the budget for health will be increased next week (it is expected that all departments will see a budget increase).

Scoliosis services will likely receive extra funding and a reduction in prescription charge fees for 65 to 69-year-olds is also expected.

However, it is not fully clear what additional measures will be announced on Tuesday. The Taoiseach has been critical of the HSE's overspend in the run up to Budget day telling the Dáil:

“The word around the campfire in the HSE is always that the cupboard is bare yet the facts say otherwise. We have the biggest health budget in the history of the State,” he said.

“We have the biggest health budget in the history of the State and it will rise again next year. It will not be long before we are in the top two or three in the world in terms of spending per capita."

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