With the 2010 Budget frogmarched through the Dáil, that’s that over for another year – hopefully.
It’s up to every one of us to try and adjust our own budgets, not just the severe cuts that have applied to public servants and social welfare recipients, but to the extra tax and health levies that were introduced in the December ’09 and the April budgets.
Public servants may yet be taking industrial action over the five to 15 per cent gross cuts to their incomes.
Pressure is growing already for the reversal of the four per cent reduction in benefits to the most vulnerable – the disabled, carers, widows and the long term unemployed.
But the government has achieved what it set out to do – to reduce the deficit by €4 billion and to prepare for the next set of €3bn to €4bn in 2011.
Public sector reform, the introduction of a property tax, water rates and major changes to pensions for new intakes into the public sector (however few they will be) and to private sector pension relief and taxation will probably provide the most amount of new revenue or savings.
There is much disquiet about the sharp reduction in jobseeker allowances for Under 23s.
But if sufficient training and education places are made available, this group will not have their weekly allowances cut to the €100 or €150 level so long as they do not refuse the offer of such a place.
Nor is there likely to be much protest over the relatively modest, circa 10 per cent cut in child benefit because of the way social welfare recipients and the lower paid are protected by the raising of the weekly Qualified Child Increase by €3.80.
Inevitably, there is an extra sting in the tail of every Budget – the details that don’t attract many headlines – and this one has shown up a number of places that will feel the scorpion’s dart:
Regarding the Treatment Benefit scheme – for 2010 these benefits which workers pay for with their PRSI payments will be limited to Medical and Surgical Appliances scheme and free examinations provided for under Dental and Optical Benefits.
This will eliminate many other dental treatments that are part-paid and that are currently covered such as severe gum treatment, fillings, extractions, dentures, root canal therapy. Eye glasses, replacement lenses, contact lenses, etc will also not now be covered for a part-payment; nor will people in need of hearing aids receive their part-payment from the scheme.
There is an extra €20 drug payment scheme exemption which brings the amount you must pay for your drugs (if you don’t have a medical card) to €120. There’s also a 50 cent per item prescription charge for medical card holders.
Last week’s Budget brought about the ending or reduction of certain FÁS job training and jobs initiative allowances, while there are still to be announced reductions in rent allowance.
For someone who is on low pay the combination of all of these cuts – in addition to any pay cuts and loss of child benefit will put a huge strain on budgets in the New Year.
For private sector workers, the Budget was considerably less onerous than many were expecting.
But the damage had already been done both by the huge increase in job losses by April, and the tax and health levies that were doubled in the mini-budget of April, were doubled, bringing marginal rate taxpayers into 51 to 56 per cent overall tax rates.
Pay cuts and/or hour reductions have also been reported by nearly half of all private sector firms, according to a survey undertaken on behalf of the Sunday Business Post.
The biggest immediate impact for private sector workers, as it will be for those employed in the public sector will be the impact of child benefit reductions and the PRSI social welfare treatment benefits and health charges mentioned above.
To get a picture of how much extra tax you have paid as a result of the three budgets since 2008 and you have access to the internet, go online to www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2010/2010.aspx
Scroll down to Annexes of the Summary where you will find tables that illustrate different groups of workers, single, married, with or without children as well as general tables of earnings and how they will be affected by taxes, levies and PRSI charges.
By knowing how much extra money you will be paying to the state, and then adding all your other deductions and expenditure, you should have a better idea of how and where you can try and make up the shortfall in your own family Budget – a subject this column will also be addressing.
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