Budget 2017 helps hard-pressed working families and farmers in Westmeath - Burke

Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath, Peter Burke, says Fine Gael has ensured that Budget 2017 will help hard-pressed working families and farmers.

Deputy Burke says Fine Gael is using Budget 2017 “to protect the progress made over the last six years”, especially in the context of Brexit.

“One particular highlight of Budget 2017 and one close to my heart is the significant investment in childcare, designed to make it more affordable for working families,” he said. “Parents of a child between six and 36 months in full-time formal childcare will receive support to the value of €960 per year. There will also be a targeted subsidy scheme for low to middle income parents with children between six months and 15 years.

“This announcement is in addition to the steps already taken to help parents get back to work. Last month we rolled out a second free year of the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme and introduced two weeks of paternity leave, which I know first-hand are of real use to families in the months after having their children.”

Deputy Burke says Fine Gael is continuing the process started in the last few Budgets of reducing high levels of taxation on modest incomes generally: “Each of the lower three USC rates are being reduced by 0.5 per cent,” he said. “Reducing the USC will ease the financial pressure on lower and middle income earners, sharing with them some of the benefits of our return to economic growth.

“In relation to the self-employed, a €400 increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit will bring the total exemption to €950, which is a further step along the road to equalising the tax treatment of self-employed workers with PAYE earners. I will be pushing for total tax equality in next year’s Budget. Also relevant is the first-time buyers scheme and the €5 increase in all payments come March.”

Deputy Burke has welcomed a number of changes aimed at alleviating the pressure farming incomes have come under in the last number of months and years. “Allowing a farmer facing an exceptionally poor year to ‘step out’ of income averaging and, instead, pay only the tax due on a current year basis with any deferred tax liability becoming payable over subsequent year is a measure which I think will be especially helpful- and this facility is available immediately,” he said.

“Other measures I especially welcome are increasing the flat-rate addition for farmers not registered for VAT from 5.2 per cent to 5.4 per cent, extending farm restructuring relief to the end of 2019, and making payments under the new raised bog restoration incentive scheme exempt from Capital Gains Tax. The Rural Social Scheme has been increased by 500 places and there are improvements in the means-testing arrangements for lower-income farmers on Farm Assist, including farm families with children.“

Deputy Burke says this Budget delivers for farmers and for families and is another important step forward in supporting rural Ireland.

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