Sunday 21 July 2019

Average worker's take-home pay fell €871 over decade

Analysis shows range of tax hikes and levies wiped out any rise in wages in years since economic crash

The figures also reveal that a full-time worker’s after-tax earnings have dropped by €342. Stock Image: PA
The figures also reveal that a full-time worker’s after-tax earnings have dropped by €342. Stock Image: PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

The average worker's take-home pay plummeted by €871 over the past decade as tax hikes wiped out a rise in wages.

An analysis of official figures reveals that average gross earnings have jumped from €36,758 to €37,646 since 2008. But after tax, today's salary is worth just €29,969 - or €871 less than the average net salary of €30,840 10 years ago.

The total tax, health levy and PRSI due was €5,918 in 2008, according to the data compiled by professional services firm PwC. Today, the tax, USC and PRSI bill is much higher, at €7,677.

PwC calculated that now there is an effective tax rate of 20pc for a single person on average yearly earnings compared with 16pc in 2008.

The effective rate is the average rate at which they are being taxed.

Tax manager at PwC Sheila Glynn said some people have done better than others in terms of pay over the past couple of years.

"But with the USC in place and the still-low threshold at which people hit the higher tax rates, the reality is that people are paying more tax as a percentage of their pay than they were before," she said. "We've shown that in our examples where, in all cases, the effective (or average) rate of tax - the amount of tax taken from each euro earned - is now greater than had been the case in 2008. So, while we might take home a bit more thanks to pay rises, and some may not, the exchequer is taking more of every euro earned from most people."

The figures also reveal that a full-time worker's after-tax earnings have dropped by €342. But part-timers' average earnings after tax, which include over-time and other payments, have risen from €15,470 10 years ago to €16,761 now. This could mean their hours and pay have increased.

However, Tom McDonnell, senior economist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute, said the income tax burden is lower than any of the EU 15 countries for a single person on average earnings, according to 2016 data.

He said the downside is that workers have to pay for more "out of pocket", including childcare and A&E services that are heavily subsidised in other states.

"There was an enormous fiscal deficit 10 years ago, to an extent that we were living in a fantasy land in terms of taxation and fiscal policy generally," he said.

He said a single earner on €40,000 in 1997 was on an effective tax rate of over 40pc but that fell to over 18pc by 2008. However, it is creeping up again and is now over 21pc.

The standard of living has fallen, he said, particularly for renters. He predicted only a small tax cut in the Budget, which may be worth a couple of hundred euro to the average worker. But he noted there are big differences between workers in various sectors, with some enjoying wage growth during the crash.

Overall, wages were stagnant across the private sector during the downturn as most employers cut jobs or working hours, with most pay rises in the last few years.

Irish Independent

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