Mar 30, 2006

Ireland - the lowest tax in the world - Irish Independent

Irish people are always moaning about taxes but a survey shows that the average Irish family pays the lowest taxes on income in the developed world!

Figures from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) show the state takes only 8pc of the gross earnings of a one-income family with two children earning the average wage, when the value of state benefits is included.
Higher income earners may be hit harder - but those on average wages were the subject of this survey,

This is just a quarter of the average deduction in the 15 pre-enlargement EU states.

The heaviest taxed EU-15 countries, Belgium, France and Sweden, take five times as much.

Irish taxes have been going up, the figures show. They reached a low of 6.4pc in 2003, when Ireland overtook Iceland in having the lowest labour taxes in the 30-nation OECD.

But this rose to 8.4pc in 2004, before falling again last year, and was still comfortably below Iceland's 11pc.

Single workers do not fare as well. They face deductions of 26pc - more than the state take in New Zealand, Korea and Mexico. But it is still almost half the 42pc EU average.

Even a lower-paid EU single worker on two-thirds of average earnings faces deductions of 38pc. Ireland and New Zealand take 20pc, compared with 27pc in the USA and 30pc in Britain.

The figures are calculated by adding employers' PRSI (natonal insurance) to income tax and employee PRSI (national insurance) , and subtracting the value of payments such as child benefit. They are therefore not the same as income tax deductions, but show how much the employee gets to keep out of the total cost to the employer.

In most of Europe, employers pay much higher insurance deductions than the 10.75pc charged to Irish employers. In many countries, the workers also pay more income tax. It therefore costs an Irish employer less money to offer the same amount of take-home pay.

Many economists believe these low labour taxes help explain Ireland's strong job creation and low unemployment. The difference is made up by Irish indirect taxes, such as VAT and excise duty, which are high by international standards. This helps makes the cost of living higher than elsewhere, but may be less damaging to employment.

"Countries have been cutting this tax wedge gradually, because they are aware these taxes have adverse effects on the labour market," said Christopher Heady, head of the OECD Tax Policy and Statistics Division.

The report says labour taxes have fallen in most countries in recent years, as governments try to get more people into work. However, the need to maintain government revenues means the changes are small. In Britain, the government increased social security contributions for employers and employees to fund an increase in health expenditure and focused its efforts to cut the tax burden on families, the OECD said.

The British tax wedge for a single person without children rose to 33.5pc.

Mar 29, 2006

Plans - what plans?

To cope with the increasing population and the desire by many Irish people to own a house or two - there is lots' of haphazard development, with houses built just about everywhere and anywhere.
Estates are popping up on the edge of every village ffom Kerry to Donegal. Plannin permission has to be applied for but in this age of the brown envelope you often wonder how some of it is granted. Everything is for sale and you seem to get planning for most places eventually if you keep the pressure on for long enough and produce an assortment of excuses.

The new cash crop in Ireland for the ailing farming industry is road frontage, with sites in prime farmland for sale everywhere.

The construction industry in Ireland is huge and contributes greatly to the economy but this monster must be fed, and it is being fed the countryside at an alarming rate.

Many developments are so badly thought out and so unsympathetic to the environment and the landscape.

Ireland is mostly a beautiful country - but there needs to be a much more structured approach to town/village planning. A collection of housing estates in small villages is just not right. The local Councils just don't seem to care.
Will it get any better - I doubt it.

Not everyone is happy

A reader's letter to the Irish Examiner gives a good summary of the major moans and groans about life in Ireland today.
The joys of living in modern Ireland

IRELAND has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past 20 years, so much so that it's a wonder our young people want to leave our shores. Let's stop whinging and appreciate what we have.

We are fortunate enough to have the dearest cars in Europe, paying massive excise on each one we purchase. We have the privilege of driving on some of the worst roads in the EU, causing damage which costs us a fortune to repair. We shouldn't complain because we are also lucky enough to be paying top rates of road tax to ensure roads are maintained to an acceptably low standard while also paying top dollar for fuel.

We are also still driving with alcohol in our systems which is a pure mystery given its cost and the amount of excise duty we pay on it. A litre of Jameson whiskey costs €11 in Spain while the same bottle costs €33 in Cork, where it is produced.

Drink-driving is partly the reason we have so many accidents, which is a pity because we can't get into the A&E departments in hospitals to have ourselves mended. This is also dangerous: if you are too drunk to drive a car, how are you supposed to balance on a trolley?

We could complain and send emails to our politicians but we can't get broadband. We could ring them on our mobiles but that's expensive, even if you can get a signal. Sometimes you can get a signal but, depending on the time of year, you can't get a politician, because they could be either on holiday or on Patrick's Day duty in Fiji or the Bahamas.

Another advantage of living in our modern Ireland is that we are in the middle of a housing boom, with more houses being built now than ever before at very affordable prices, if 30 or 40 people club together for a three-bed semi.

So let's be thankful for what we have and let's congratulate our political icons for getting us where we are. Not many could have achieved what they have over such a short period. If Churchill were alive today, he may well have said: "Never in the field of Irish politics was so little owed to so many by so many more."


Mar 24, 2006

Irish Immigration and Economy to Grow

Immigrants will make up one in five of the Irish population by 2020 ensuring Ireland continues to prosper - according to a report by NCB Stockbrokers
Forecasting sustained economic growth of close to 6% every year for the next 15 years they think that Ireland’s unique population and age structure would drive success.

In their highly optimistic report “2020 Vision: Ireland’s demographic dividend”, NCB reckon around 70,000 immigrants would be arriving in Ireland every year for the next five years.

This huge influx will play an increasingly important role in the growth of the labour force and demand for housing, the report said, supporting the generation of workers born in the baby-boom years of the 1970s.

NCB said Ireland’s population will grow by 30% to over 5.3 million 2020 and to 6 million by 2050. There will be 1 million immigrants in Ireland by 2020, the body said.

The report claimed the number of people aged between 15 and 64, the key group in terms of economic activity, will increase by over 700,000 to 3.5 million in the next 15 years.

NCB stated that sustained increase in labour supply will maintain the strong growth which began in the 1990s, and would ensure Ireland’s economic success far outstripped other European economies where populations were stagnant or declining.

The report claimed there was a potential growth rate in GDP of 5.75% up until 2010. Between 2011 and 2015 GDP could cool down to 5%, while looking further ahead to 2020, NCB forecast a slight slowdown in labour supply reducing GDP growth to 4%.

But analysts at NCB confidently predicted that a slowdown in the American economy would not hit Ireland badly. Nor do they think that the loss of major US firms would severely dent the economy.

NCB suggested strong growth in the labour force would keep Ireland ahead of the rest of the EU, regardless of whether multi-nationals decided to cut staff levels, or ultimately pull out.

2020 Vision also claimed consumer demand would be driven by relatively rapid rates of population growth with pensions, mortgages, insurance and other financial products benefiting alongside spending on leisure activities, travel and entertainment.

Housing demand may cool down over the next 15 years, but NCB do not predict a crash in the market. The continued influx of immigrants will keep the market alive with around 65,000 units completed each year.

The number of cars in Ireland will double to 3 million by 2020, the report claimed. While the number of motors in Dublin and neighbouring counties will top 1 million.

Over the longer term to 2050, the population will show distinct ageing. The median age of the population will go up from 33 to 38 by 2020 and to 46 by 2050.

Over 65s will account for 29% of the population or about 1.7 million individuals by 2050 compared with the current figure of 11%.

Mar 4, 2006

Driving without a licence.

Here in Ireland the average waiting time for a driving test was seven months in 2003 but has increased to over 10 months by the end of 2005

The crazy thing is - that it is legal for some people who have not passed the test to drive on their own!
You need to pass a theory test to get a provisional licence and you must be accompanied all the time on your first provisional licence .After the first licence expires in 2 years you can apply for a second provisional licence - and you do not need to be accompanied when you have this second licence!

Last year the number of drivers on a provisional licence rose to more than 404,000, with 129,869 waiting to take their test.

At the end of 2005 more than 206,000 drivers were using a first provisional licence, more than 98,500 were using a second provisional and over 42,240 were on their third.

Drivers on their second provisional can drive unaccompanied. The delays have been compounded by the fact that about 16,000 fewer tests were carried out last year than in 2004. To address this the governmant put forward a proposal last year, which included a bonus scheme to encourage driver testers to work overtime and the outsourcing of 40,000 tests to a private company.

This plan was immediately contested by Impact, the Civil and Public Service Union and Federated Union of Government Employees, who objected to the core work of civil servants being outsourced. As an alternative they proposed retraining surplus Department of Agriculture staff to clear the backlog. However, this plan was dependent on a minimum of 25 suitable Department of Agriculture staff being willing to participate and when only eight were identified, the government signalled their intention to return to the private sector.

The Department of Transport has identified the company that operates the National Car Test as a preferred candidate for the contract to provide 40,000 driving tests and Mr Cullen is keen to have the company start work as soon as possible.

"We are going to move to outsourcing immediately. It is a key element in reducing the waiting list for driving tests. I understand the Department is going to arbitration - and hopefully that will resolve it."

Mr Cullen said at the moment he was not looking at outsourcing more than 40,000 tests, as he hoped that the private firm, in conjunction with a bonus overtime scheme for existing driver testers "would make a huge impact".

"I would be delighted if I could get a deal immediately. That would allow us to clear the waiting list in a year or 18 months. Then we can get back to a much more normal situation where you can get a test in a few weeks."