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Monday 16 September 2019

New parents 'unaware' they are missing out on key benefits

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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Parents are missing out on a string of State supports when they welcome a new arrival.

Large numbers of new mothers and fathers are failing to avail of maternity and paternity benefit, child benefit, home carer tax credit, and the homemaker's scheme that makes it easier to qualify for a State pension.

Parents will be entitled to two weeks' paid parental leave from November.

Another recent change also means that four more weeks of unpaid parental leave will be offered to parents of children aged 12 and under from the start of next month.

The current entitlement for unpaid parental leave is 18 weeks per child. This will extend to 22 weeks a child from the start of September.

Experts at Taxback.com said paid parental and unpaid parental leave were among at least five key benefits for new parents that were being under-utilised.

They estimate that up to three out of four new mothers and fathers do not properly understand the range of State benefits they are entitled to avail of when a baby is born.

Taxback.com's Stephanie Meagher said: "Most people know the basics when it comes to the financial supports available, such as maternity benefit and perhaps the child benefit payment.

"But, based on our interactions with customers every day, it has become increasingly apparent that the majority of new parents out there do not know about things like paternity benefit, the home carer tax credit, and the homemaker's scheme."

Ms Meagher said there was a relatively low uptake of the paternity benefit payments since the scheme was introduced three years ago.

In 2017 and 2018, more than 123,000 babies were born, but just 48,850 fathers took up the paternity benefit.

"While it's certainly the case that not everyone would have been eligible for the payment or would have applied for a variety of personal or situation-dependent reasons, there's definitely a case to be made that the low take-up is in part down to a lack of awareness," she said.

A recent change means that from November, employed and self-employed parents of new babies will be entitled to two weeks' paid parental leave in the first years of the child's life.

The Government expects up to 60,000 parents a year to benefit from paid parental leave.

Ms Meagher said the new benefit could be worth up to €1,000 per couple, a sum that could go a long way toward paying for the likes of car seats, cots and nappies.

"Taxback.com is advising that there is a plethora of tax reliefs available to parents and that, by doing a little bit of research, you could save yourself a lot of money," she said.

"There are a variety of tax relief entitlements available to parents. Expectant mothers are entitled to claim tax relief at a rate of 20pc on any costs incurred for routine maternity care, including private hospital fees."

Prospective parents can also claim tax back at a rate of 20pc if they pay for the cost of IVF treatment, a treatment that usually starts at €4,000.

Parents can go back four years to claim these tax entitlements.

The home carer tax credit, worth €1,500 in 2019, is available to many parents who work in the home caring for a child.

Parents working in the home were also reminded to avail of the homemaker's scheme, which makes it easier for them to qualify for the State contributory pension, as they can qualify for PRSI contributions.

Irish Independent

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