Vivienne Clarke and Press Association
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he believes most people will be “better off” as a result of Budget 2022.
“I think most people will be better off whether it's a consequence of the income tax measures or the social welfare measures”, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
The Budget provided an increase in funding for public services and it also “threw a lifeline” to businesses, he said, adding: “No one Budget can solve all problems. It was one day’s work.”
Mr Varadkar defended the 30 cent per hour increase in the minimum wage, saying it had been the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission and it would help ensure that wages kept up with inflation.
“In the round” it was one measure which would make a difference for people struggling to meet the cost of living, he said.
Working from home
An income tax reduction for people working from home was not designed to make working from home the norm, it was to help defray the cost of domestic bills, he said.
The country was moving to a new phase post-pandemic, and this measure was to help people make a choice if they wished to work from home.
The Budget had retained the help-to-buy scheme as the Government wanted to help people own their own home. “We want to do something to help all workers, that’s why we brought in indexation of tax brackets,” Mr Varadkar said.
He admitted that the Government had not been able to “make a huge amount of progress” on providing free GP care to children under 10, but he hoped that GPs would “get on board” and more age groups could be added in the next few years.
When asked if the free contraception measures for women put the responsibility on women, Mr Varadkar said there were existing programmes that offered free condoms and that the new proposals were part of a women’s health package.
Mr Varadkar also said that the Zoned Land Tax was fundamentally different to the Vacant Site Tax, adding that the Government could it increase it amid questions about the measure’s effectiveness.
One of the surprise Budget measures announced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was the three per cent Zoned Land Tax, set to apply to land which is zoned as suitable for housing but remains undeveloped.
Opposition politicians have questioned why the rate is lower than the Vacant Site Levy it will replace, which is currently seven per cent.
Mr Varadkar said the measure is designed to put anyone hoarding land “on notice”, and he pledged it will eat into landowners’ profits if land remains unused.
“ZLT applies to around 8,000 hectares of land around the country. We're saying to companies who own that land to get planning permission, get building and if you don't do that you will face tax,” he said.
“The purpose of this tax is not to raise money,” he added. “It’s to send out a very clear message to landowners that if you’re sitting on zoned land, if that land is serviced, if you could build housing on it, well you need to.
“If you don’t, we’re going to seriously impact and eat into the profit margin that you thought you were going to get.
“If needs be, we can increase it.”