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Thursday 23 November 2017

Emigrant tax plan is a 'stunt', 'unworkable' and 'unfair', say TDs

Dara Calleary speaking at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Dara Calleary speaking at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A plan by Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor for a special tax deal to encourage emigrants to return home has been attacked as a "stunt" and "unworkable".

Ms Mitchell O'Connor is proposing to offer a lower 30pc tax rate to highly skilled workers to lure them home.

But the plan has come under fire from a series of opposition TDs. Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said he had "grave concerns", adding that further details of what was envisaged must be released. He pointed out that a lot of Irish people did not emigrate and while "we do need to bring people back", the tax system must be "fair".

Fianna Fáil jobs spokesman Niall Collins described Ms Mitchell O'Connor's proposal as a "stunt" and claimed it was a "rehashed kite-flying exercise". He said her predecessor Richard Bruton made similar proposals in the past.

Mr Collins blamed a lack of affordable housing and "spiralling" insurance, childcare and transport costs for emigrants being slow to return.

Labour TD Alan Kelly branded the proposal "a crazy policy" that would "create discrimination" where people doing similar jobs would be charged at different tax rates. He added: "It's unworkable and it's unfair."

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin said his reaction "is one of some scepticism" and that his party would "take a very different approach".

Meanwhile, Ms Mitchell O'Connor's press adviser - former TV3 anchor Alan Cantwell - received a backlash at yesterday's weekly adviser meeting in Government Buildings.

Mr Cantwell was told by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's officials that the story was "unhelpful", particularly with the Budget just two weeks away.

Tax measures to be introduced in the Budget have yet to be decided upon by Cabinet.

Under the minister's proposal, the lower tax rate would be aimed at those working in medicine, IT and finance sectors who earn in excess of €75,000.

The scheme would also apply to some entrepreneurs. It would remain in place for a set period - expected to be five years.

Tax incentives for graduates who purchase company shares as part of their transfer home would be included. The move is in response to complaints from workers living overseas that the marginal tax rate of just under 50pc is putting them off from returning home.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor's spokesman last night responded to the criticism, saying there was a clear Programme for Government ambition to facilitate the return of at least 70,000 emigrants.

He said it would include efforts to improve access to housing and increase school places. He said there was also a commitment to make the personal tax system "more competitive".

But he added: "Until the Budget is announced, it is not possible to provide details on what it may contain."

Irish Independent

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