Galwegians could be taking to the streets in protest before the end of the year if the combined affects of NAMA, taxes on child benefit and water services, and the expected savage Budget punish ordinary people for the recklessness of the banks, property developers, and the Government.
Labour councillor Billy Cameron says there is real anger among the public about the extent of taxation the Government expects them to pay, following the publication of the Commission on Taxation report this week.
The report includes nearly 250 recommendations on how to broaden the tax base and to stabilise Exchequer returns. Even if only some are implemented, they will have a considerable impact on taxpayers’ pockets into the future.
Among the report’s most controversial recommendations are subjecting child benefit to income tax and introducing a child tax credit; the majority of social welfare payments should be subject to taxation; the introduction of an annual property tax; and water charges.
Many leading Galway politicians and organisations have expressed grave concern over the proposed taxes, fearing it will create an unequal society where the less well off are burdened with taxes for the sins of the banks, the Government, and the property developers.
“You can only tax people so much,” Labour councillor Billy Cameron told the Galway Advertiser. “Putting tax on private property, child benefit, and motorists will severely hit low to middle income earners. People are having to pay enough without more taxes being put on them. In particular the tax on child benefit could lead to child poverty.”
Martin O’Connor, assistant CEO of COPE Galway, says the commission’s recommendations “do not appear to be equitable” and are “disproportionate” in relation to lower income groups.
“In relation to child benefit our services work with women whose only income would be child benefit, and in terms of domestic abuse the money is usually with the man, in these circumstances child benefit is the only thing these women can rely on,” he says.
The Commission on Taxation is driven by fiscal requirement, but there is need to look at social implications, O’Connor says.
“To date there has already been taxation by stealth on lower incomes and social welfare. This has seen the contribution toward rent by people on social welfare increase from €13 to €24 in under a year; it may not seem like a lot but it is a high percentage of income.”
The Galway City Community Forum criticised the proposal to cut community funding. “This is another attack on the vulnerable and depriving the community sector of crucial funding will be devastating to groups working in communities,” a Forum spokesperson says.
The Galway City Community Forum will, over the coming month’s campaign, highlight the issues that will face the community sector and the groups that it represents if the proposed cutbacks are introduced.
“People I meet are furious, the Government is at an all time low in the polls ,and it has no longer a mandate,” he claims. “People are angry they should have to shoulder the burden of this when they are not the ones who caused the economy to crash.
“There needs to be more equality in how we deal with things. Imagine that it has taken this crisis to make people think that the highest income earners and the rich should have to pay a higher tax, but why wasn’t this done in the past?”
While the public recognises he next couple of years will be hard, Cllr Cameron points out that the public “can only be taxed so much” and the anger they feel now could see people taking to the streets in protest.
“The Irish people can be very apathetic when it comes to taxation and cuts, but we saw the effect of people power before Christmas when the elderly took to the streets over the medical cards,” Cllr Cameron says.
“I believe people will take to the streets over all this, particularly over the water charges. That will hit everybody across the board. The elderly have given us the lead, and if that energy can be tapped into, I feel the hostility will rise and people will take to the streets.”
See Business Page for details of the Commission on Taxation.