The Labour Party Spokesperson on Finance, Deputy Joan Burton, has said that replies she has received to parliamentary questions to the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, show that the Minister is unable to quantify the cost to the Exchequer of almost 30 different tax reliefs.
“It is simply astonishing that at a time of falling tax revenue, Minister McCreevy, is unable to tell us just how much these reliefs – which are generally only availed of by the well-off – are costing the rest of the taxpaying public.
“I believe it is essential that the Minister for Finance should now initiate an immediate audit to establish the cost of these tax reliefs and when this is done there should them be a full cost benefit analysis.
“I am sure that the majority of ordinary PAYE workers would be astonished to even hear of the existence of some of these reliefs. Some of these reliefs may have had a purpose when they were originally introduced, but in many cases it is difficult to justify their continued operation, especially when we do not know the cost. Some estimates have put the cost of one of the reliefs – stallion fees – at as much as €100m per annum, but we do not even have a guestimate in relation to the cost of others.
“Various reasons were given by Minister McCreevy for not having the information as to the cost of these reliefs. In some cases beneficiaries simply do not have to declare the information, while in others the Minister simply said that the information is ‘not at present captured in such a way as to provide a dedicated basis for compiling estimates of cost to the Exchequer.
“This is not a question of political ideology. It is simply a question of sound economic sense. It simply makes no sense to give something away, without knowing the value of it. Yet our tax regime gives away generous benefits to a generally small number of people without knowing what it costs.
“This practice must be reviewed without further delay”.
ENDS (LIST OF RELIEFS ATTACHED)
TAX RELIEFS FOR WHICH THE MINISTER COULD GIVE NO COST;
1.NOT REQUIRED TO DECLARE INCOME TO DATE:
Commercially managed woodland.
Stallion stud fees.
Greyhound stud fees.
2. INFORMATION NOT AT PRESENT CAPTURED IN SUCH A WAY AS TO PROVIDE A DEDICATED BASIS FOR COMPILING ESTIMATES OF ITS COST TO THE EXCHEQUER:
Third level institutions.
Sports injury clinics.
Park and ride facilities.
Living above the shop.
Private convalescent homes.
Housing units for aged and infirm.
Compensation payments for personal injuries.
3. STATISTICS NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE:
Tax relief on retirement relief for sportspersons.
Deductions of foreign earnings.
Donations to sports bodies.
Investment in life assurance undertakings.
Offshore life and collective investment products.
Rent a room scheme.
4. NO SIGNIFICANT COSTS TO DATE
Savings related share options.
Employee share ownership trusts.
New scheme for approved share options.