Thursday 17 October 2019

Sinn Féin wants €2bn tax increases to fund rent freeze and free GP visits

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

SINN Féin wants a new wealth tax and a third rate of income tax to pay for a freeze in rents and two free GP visits for everyone without a medical card.

In its alternative Budget document published on Tuesday, the party has proposed a raft of new tax increases that would raise over €2bn to pay for increased public spending, financial aid for renters and supports for the sectors of the economy worst affected by Brexit.

The plan includes a proposal to tax the wealthiest 0.25pc in the State at a rate of 1pc on the portion of wealth over €1m and introduce a 5pc tax on the portion of a worker's income above €140,000 - in effect a third rate of income tax.

The party also wants to abolish local property tax, but re-introduce a second home charge at a rate of €400 as well as increase commercial stamp duty and the vacant site levy. Its tax plans also include adding 50c to the cost of a packet of cigarettes.

The money raised from these tax measures would be used to pay for a €279 million plan to tackle the housing crisis by introducing a three-year freeze on all rents as well as an annual tax break equal to one month’s rent during this period.

Sinn Féin wants to reduce the cost of many insurance premiums by 5pc by abolishing two government levies.

In other measures aimed at tackling the cost of living for families the party wants to introduce two free GP visits for everyone without a medical card as part of a phased plan for universal free GP care.

It is proposing a five-year programme of childcare reform which would include pay rises for childcare workers and a cut in childcare fees by two-thirds. Sinn Féin says this would on average amount to a cut in the cost of childcare for families of €100-a-month per child.

READ MORE: Taoiseach facing Budget backlash over tax cut pledge

The party’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty told “It is about giving workers and families a break. We need to reorientate how some of our services are working.

"We’ve targeted those areas for radical reform. With the right investment we can reduce childcare costs by two thirds and bring them in line with the EU average.

“At the moment, €230m is being pocketed by the government in relation to insurance premiums so there is a 5pc charge on motor, household and business insurance. We believe that needs to end..

The party also wants wants to abolish student fees starting with €500 cut in 2020, introduce free travel for 5 to 18-year-olds on public transport, and introduce a living wage of €12.30 per hour across the public sector.

Sinn Féin’s document also sets out a proposal for €2 billion Brexit stabilisation fund that would put millions of euro in support towards domestic exporters, SMEs, the tourism industry and the agri-food sector.

The fund also includes €1.2 billion in increases capital investment and nearly €36 million for 5,000 apprenticeships.

On climate change, the party is opposing the expected increase in the carbon tax in the Budget, but wants to invest more money in public transport, increase funding for retro-fit schemes for homes and extend organic farming grants.

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