Tax increases needed to fund public services – ESRI
The Economic and Social Research Institute has said “sizeable tax increases in the years ahead” will be needed to fund public services.
In a paper published today, the think-tank said an over-reliance on corporate tax receipts and changes to motor tax means alternative sources of revenue will have to be found.
Even before the pandemic, Ireland’s public finances faced challenges in paying for an ageing population and the transition to a carbon free economy.
The ESRI laid out a range of options for tax increases, which it believed will be needed particularly now that public expenditure has gone up substantially since Covid.
It also said that the move to electric vehicles puts some €3bn in motor tax at risk and warns about over-reliance on what it describes as “volatile” corporation taxes.
It described increases in the main rates of income tax, USC and PRSI as the most straightforward way to raise additional revenue and the most equitable.
But it also took aim at what it described as “economically dubious” tax reliefs on everything from property investments made in the crash to the inheritance of farms, pensions and the Help-to-Buy scheme, which it said is “poorly targeted”.
On corporation tax, it said over half of the €10.9bn collected in 2019 came from just 10 large companies.
However, it said any increase in the 12.5% rate could have a negative effect on investment.
It also said there could be knock-on effects on domestic firms, particularly smaller firms which use retained profits rather than loans for investment in their businesses.
On the local property tax, the paper noted that it is still bringing in the same amount of just under half a billion euro that it did in its first full year in 2014.
This is despite an additional 100,000 properties built since, of which around half were purchased by owner-occupiers. Owner-occupier properties built since 2012 have been exempt from property tax.
It said if the Government were to revise the valuations originally done in 2013 to reflect current market rates, it could raise an additional €275m per year. It also suggested that a higher property tax might dampen down property price inflation.
It also noted that the exemption of the sale of principal private residences from capital gains tax costs the exchequer at least €2.4bn per year.
It said designing a successful wealth tax in Ireland might be difficult as it is estimated that 60% of wealth is wrapped up in principal private residences, which is already taxed, and 30% in other forms of property.
It went into some detail on possible changes to how pensions are taxed, and suggested that less generous allowances for lump sums could be combined with higher tax credits for pension incomes to raise an additional €134m per year for the exchequer.
On environmental taxes, it noted that fossil fuel subsidies cost the State €2.4bn in 2019, 89% of which was related to a range of tax reliefs. The lower rate of duty applied to diesel compared to petrol cost €400m.
It argued that reforming tax reliefs would deliver a simpler, more efficient and arguably fairer tax system.