THE Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is seeking to expand the new energy subsidy scheme for businesses to include professionals, which were left out of the original version of the programme.
Mr Varadkar has appealed to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to add doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants and other professionals that run small businesses to the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) to help them offset high energy costs this winter.
His appeal came after the Irish Independent revealed the exclusion of professionals from the energy supports scheme.
“So I was discussing this with the minister for finance today,” Mr Varadkar told reporters in Wexford.
“I can’t make any definite promises at the moment but we are seeing if there’s some way that we can include them in a scheme or do something to help them with their energy bills, because we do acknowledge that they fall into the business category precisely because they are ratepayers and they are employers as well.”
He added that professionals “pay rates, they have employees and they pay taxes”, just like so-called trade businesses, which are covered under the new €1.25bn scheme.
If Mr Varadkar’s proposal is accepted and the scheme is revised, it will bring thousands of new employers into the TBESS, inflating the cost but potentially saving jobs.
The Department of Finance said there was not yet any change to the position set out by Mr Donohoe in his Budget speech last month, however.
Thousands of medical practices, dentists and opticians – along with accountants, solicitors, engineers, architects and financial advisers – are ineligible for TBESS, which promises to pay up to €10,000 per month to businesses hit with skyrocketing energy costs.
However, the scheme only covers so-called Case 1 income – money a business makes from trade. Professional services are categorised by Revenue as Case 2 businesses, which leaves them outside the remit.
The distinction means that professional firms, many of which are important employers, could be facing a cold winter without State support.