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Finance Bill another missed opportunity

3 February, 2005

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Finance Bill published today was "another missed opportunity". He said that it offered "nothing new or radical" in addition to the measures already announced in the Budget.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The removal of those on minimum wage from the tax net is welcome - but again, it is something that could and should have been done by Minister McCreevy long ago. The measure has already been overtaken as the current minimum wage is inadequate and an increase is overdue and is now demanded by trade unions.

"Minister Cowen received plaudits for the reduction in stamp duty for first-time buyers of second hand properties. Again this was long overdue and welcome but what will be done to ensure that the benefit is enjoyed by the buyers? Straight after the Budget auctioneers and valuers representatives were saying that the reduction would be eaten up by increased house prices. That surely shows the need for regulation of the price of housing, something this Government has refused to countenance.

"Similarly, there is increased tax relief for tenants in private rented accommodation but if nothing is done to control rents they will continue to rise and this tax relief will amount to a subsidy to rack-renting landlords.

"This government's tax cuts, between 1997 and 2002, saw only 5% of budget tax cut benefits go to the bottom 20% of earners. We are living with the legacy and the Budget and this Bill represent a catch-up rather than a radical shift in direction.

"For years we in Sinn Féin have been calling for a comprehensive review of the wide range of property-based tax reliefs and the closing of those through which wealth corporations and individuals are being allowed to avoid their fair share of tax. Minister Cowen has a review under way but did not close off any of the tax dodges for which this Government is responsible and which benefit wealthy speculators.

"We will probably never know how much has been lost to the public finances through these scams because the Government has never carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the huge range of such allowances.

"Minister Cowen staunchly defended the 12.5% Corporation Tax rate. But the Banks which have ripped off the Irish public right, left and centre, are benefiting from this low rate. The Minister should have hit them with a special tax and ring-fenced it for disadvantaged communities." ENDS

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