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Host of tax rises to hit middle class in Budget

Middle-class homeowners and income earners are to be crucified in December's Budget because of a host of tax increases and service reductions demanded by the EU and the IMF.

The Government has committed to raising an additional €1.5bn next year in increased taxes, meaning considerable additional pain for the "coping classes".

The inclusion of such measures within the programme document means there is no room for the Government to back out of them between now and Budget Day.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's earlier pledge not to increase income tax rates has come back to haunt him as the EU and IMF are demanding further reductions in personal income tax bands and credits to be "completed by the end of quarter four of 2011".

Under the latest update to the Memorandum of Understanding, published on Friday, private pension tax reliefs are to be lowered further, despite them being hit for a levy worth €480m a year, to pay for the Government's jobs Initiative.

Other painful measures included in the plan are the €100 property tax, a reform of capital gains tax and acquisitions tax and an increase in the carbon tax.

The plan shows the Government has committed to spending reductions of at least €2.1bn, including reductions in social welfare expenditure, reductions in public sector numbers and "adjustments" in pension arrangements for public sector workers.

The Central Bank's downgrading of its growth forecasts will only increase the pressure on the Government and reduce further its capacity to make the adjustments.

The bank did, however, urge the Government to set out as early as possible the shape of the 2012 Budget so that uncertainty for households and businesses would be reduced.

The Central Bank's forecasts for the economy, just published in its quarterly bulletin, are marginally more downbeat than three months ago.

It now expects the domestic economy -- as measured by gross national product -- to shrink slightly this year, making it the fourth year in a row of continued decline.

Echoing that call for Government certainty on what it intends, UCD economist Colm McCarthy, writing in today's Sunday Independent, has called for the Budget to be brought forward in a bid to restore Ireland's credibility.

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He said: "A comprehensive spending review is under way and there is no reason why the next Budget could not be brought forward to October. It could also bring forward some of the fiscal measures already pencilled in for later tears. If a budget bringing the 2012 deficit below eight per cent of GDP could be enacted in October, it would begin the restoration of market credibility and the prospect of restoring some degree of control over our own affairs."

Overall, the Government is committing to an adjustment of at least €3.6bn. However, Michael Noonan has repeatedly stated this figure will more than likely have to be closer to €4bn.

In his quarterly letter to the EU-IMF on meeting the terms of the bailout, Mr Noonan said the Government was "on track to observe, and indeed overachieve" the target for reducing the budget deficit in 2011.

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