This is the last Budget of the current Government, however Minister of Finance, Michael Noonan, has clearly pitched this as the opening salvo in the Government's re-election campaign with his statement that this is intended as the start of a new series of Budgets.
Commenting at the Midlands Budget Briefing in Athlone, Fiona Murphy, Tax Director, Russell Brennan Keane said that "the Minister has continued with the approach he adopted in the previous Budget with a focus on easing the burden on low and middle income earners. This is a Budget aimed at families and job creators. In addition there are some very welcome incentives for farmers. In relation to corporation tax, the Government has continued with its stated intention to ensure that Ireland's corporation tax system is robust and "best in class". The introduction of the Knowledge Development Box, the first in the world to be compliant with OECD standards, adds to Ireland's corporate tax regime and ensures that we remain competitive with other jurisdictions in attracting foreign direct investment."
The main tax provision was to reduce the 3.5% and 1.5% rates of USC to 3% and 1% respectively and to reduce the 7% rate to 5.5% for income up to €70,004. He has given a further commitment to progressively abolish the USC and to reduce the marginal rate of tax for all workers to at most 50%, if re-elected. He has also introduced some very welcome initiatives for the self employed and entrepreneurs with the introduction of an Earned Income tax credit and a revised CGT entrepreneurs relief that will provide a 20% rate of CGT on the gain derived from the sale of the whole or part of a business up to an overall limit of €1million in chargeable gains. This is to be welcomed and again the Minister has indicated that his intention is to introduce further measures to support job creators and complete tax equalisation for the self employed.
Overall according to Fiona Murphy, "as has been well flagged this is clearly an election Budget with a little something for everyone. After years of austerity and painful Budgets the Government is now in the enviable position of being able to announce an expansionary Budget with the promise of more to come if re-elected. The overall thrust of the Budget, to ensure that work pays and to remove any impediments to attracting individuals back into the workforce, is very welcome. Perhaps the glaring omission from this Budget is that there were no direct measures to alleviate the current housing crisis by incentivising the Construction Sector. The Minister has however started a consultation process with NAMA. This is a real issue for many and could come back to bite the Government on the doorsteps once canvassing begins in earnest."