Forsa demands tax relief on Irish trade union subs Forsa demands tax relief on Irish trade union subs

Forsa demands tax relief on Irish trade union subs
29 Mar 2018

Ireland’s Fórsa trade union has demanded that tax relief on trade union subscriptions, which was abolished during the economic crisis, be restored.

Lead organiser Joe O'Connor told the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight that the government's current approach discriminates against PAYE union members because self-employed people and other relatively well-paid professionals can claim tax relief on subscriptions from their professional organisations. Such organisations include business lobby groups such as Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Irish SME Association and the Irish Farmers’ Association

O’Connor also pointed out that many other countries, including Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Australia and Canada, permit tax relief on trade union subscriptions.

According to RTE, the policy was first introduced into Ireland in 2001 by then finance minister Charlie McCreevy to bring workers' entitlements into line with people who paid fees to professional bodies and already received tax relief on such fees.

By 2008, the relief had risen to €350 (US$432) at the standard rate of tax - the equivalent of a €70 (US$86) tax credit for union members. By 2010, it was costing the country €26 million (US$32 million) a year.

The following year, as the economic crisis deepened, Mr McCreevy's successor Brian Lenihan initially announced he planned to abolish tax relief not just on union subscriptions but on fees to professional bodies too.

But the latter cut was never implemented. While the government did abolish a Benefit-in-Kind exemption that allowed employers to pay the annual membership fee of a relevant professional body, it only applied to directors and employees but not to the self-employed.

Fórsa argues that reinstating the relief on trade union subscriptions would be a small gesture to union members who made enormous sacrifices during the economic crash. It would also recognise the important role of unions in Irish society.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

Ireland’s Fórsa trade union has demanded that tax relief on trade union subscriptions, which was abolished during the economic crisis, be restored.

Lead organiser Joe O'Connor told the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight that the government's current approach discriminates against PAYE union members because self-employed people and other relatively well-paid professionals can claim tax relief on subscriptions from their professional organisations. Such organisations include business lobby groups such as Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Irish SME Association and the Irish Farmers’ Association

O’Connor also pointed out that many other countries, including Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Australia and Canada, permit tax relief on trade union subscriptions.

According to RTE, the policy was first introduced into Ireland in 2001 by then finance minister Charlie McCreevy to bring workers' entitlements into line with people who paid fees to professional bodies and already received tax relief on such fees.

By 2008, the relief had risen to €350 (US$432) at the standard rate of tax - the equivalent of a €70 (US$86) tax credit for union members. By 2010, it was costing the country €26 million (US$32 million) a year.

The following year, as the economic crisis deepened, Mr McCreevy's successor Brian Lenihan initially announced he planned to abolish tax relief not just on union subscriptions but on fees to professional bodies too.

But the latter cut was never implemented. While the government did abolish a Benefit-in-Kind exemption that allowed employers to pay the annual membership fee of a relevant professional body, it only applied to directors and employees but not to the self-employed.

Fórsa argues that reinstating the relief on trade union subscriptions would be a small gesture to union members who made enormous sacrifices during the economic crash. It would also recognise the important role of unions in Irish society.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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