Tuesday 17 September 2019

Sinn Fein plans wealth tax to target savings and pensions

Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the party wanted a 1pc tax on non-productive assets worth more than €1m.
Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the party wanted a 1pc tax on non-productive assets worth more than €1m.

Colm Kelpie and Thomas Molloy

SINN FEIN is drawing up new proposals to impose a wealth tax on those with larger family homes, savings and pension pots.

Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the party wanted a 1pc tax on non-productive assets worth more than €1m.

It has long advocated such a tax but has not previously tried to calculate what effect it would have on the economy, how much money would be returned to the Exchequer or how many people would be affected.

Mr Doherty said the target was about half a per cent of the entire value of the economy, estimated at €800m.

But that figure is four times higher than the projected windfall put forward by the left-leaning Nevin Economic Research Institute this week. It said a wealth tax would not bring in much revenue because Ireland has such an open economy.

Mr Doherty admitted he had no way of telling the extent of the wealth in the Irish economy.

"There's no way that I can sit here and say this wealth tax will take in exactly €800m because you don't know what wealth is out there," he said.

Michael Noonan has repeatedly told the Dail that the Revenue Commissioners don't know how much money could be raised by such a tax.

In July, the Finance Minister said he "does not propose at this time to introduce a wealth tax".

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is attempting to calculate national wealth as part of its Household Finance and Consumption Survey but this is not part of any new wealth tax, he added.

Homes

Some European countries have a wealth tax -- including France, Holland and Switzerland and Norway -- but others have abolished such taxes because citizens move assets abroad.

In its pre-budget submission last year, Sinn Fein estimated that the levy could bring in about €1bn but it used the CSO's institutional sector accounts to gauge the level of wealth in the country.

It has now downgraded the amount because it proposes knocking 20pc off the value of the principal residence worth more than €1m to give some leeway to people who are asset-rich but cash-poor.

The party says net wealth would be targeted, with working assets such as a farm or a business, excluded.

Mr Doherty claimed that financial management company Merril Lynch had estimated there were 18,100 people living in the State with assets of more than $1m (€778,000).

He said they were drawing up legislation, but a party spokesman couldn't say when it would be published.

"You take out all their debts and you take out the working assets and what you're left with then is a contribution that we think is modest from people who can afford to pay a bit more," Mr Doherty said.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said earlier this month that his party would bring forward an alternative budget, containing €3.5bn in tax hikes and spending cuts, and that this would contain a wealth tax.

Irish Independent

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