Time to demolish tax shelters for the rich

Letter in today’s Irish Examiner.

It’s time to demolish tax shelter for the rich

IN recent months there has been considerable public debate on issues relating to Government expenditure cuts, our economic recovery and the need to protect Ireland’s most vulnerable groups.

We are being led to believe that the economic crisis leaves us with no alternative but to make drastic cuts to basic services and supports, including child benefit, social welfare and to the community sector that works directly with the most disadvantaged.

This false premise needs to be challenged.

There are real alternatives to this slash-and-burn approach being presented as the only option open to us.

It is a relatively unknown fact that the State loses tens, if not hundreds, of millions of euro every year in what is known as “tax expenditures” or “taxes foregone”.

These include the wide range of tax reliefs and shelters available from which the wealthiest people in Ireland benefit most.

The Commission on Taxation has identified an extraordinary 111 such “breaks”. Estimates indicate that substantial savings could be made — up to €8bn annually.

If these tax breaks were phased out or standardised. Child benefit is also defined as a tax break and is currently attracting a significant level of interest and attention.

However, child benefit plays such an important role in the fight against child poverty and supporting mothers that there is a strong case for it to be maintained.

We believe the bulk of taxes foregone could be better used to protect ordinary people and their families, including the most vulnerable against the worst effects of the recession.

The route to a more balanced and fair society is not about squeezing more out of those already bearing the biggest burden but by increasing revenue through tax reform, targeting those who continue to enjoy excessive salaries, privileges, expenses, bonuses, tax breaks and tax shelters.

The Government has real choices. It remains to be seen if it will do the right thing.

Anne Costello (on behalf of the following organisations in the Community Platform)

Age Action Ireland ATD Fourth World Cáirde Community Action Network Community Workers’ Co-op European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland Focus Ireland Gay and Lesbian Equality Network Immigrant Council of Ireland Irish Association of Older People Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed Irish Penal Reform Trust Irish Refugee Council Irish Rural Link Irish Traveller Movement Migrant Rights Centre Ireland National Adult Literacy Agency National Traveller Women’s Forum National Women’s Council of Ireland Older Women’s Network OPEN Pavee Point Rape Crisis Network Ireland SAFE Ireland Simon Communities of Ireland Threshold Vincentian Partnership for Justice Voluntary Drug Treatment Network Women’s Aid.