Wednesday, 1 June 1932
Dáil Éireann Debate
(1) That notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in Section 1 of the Finance Act, 1931 (No. 31 of 1931), sur-tax for the year beginning on the 6th day of April, 1931, shall be charged in respect of the income of any individual the total of which from all sources exceeds one thousand five hundred pounds and shall be so charged at the following rates in lieu of the rates referred to in the said Section 1, that is to say:—
|In respect of the first one thousand five hundred pounds of the income||Nil.|
|In respect of the excess over one thousand five hundred pounds, for every pound of the first five hundred pounds of the excess||Sixpence.|
|for every pound of the next one thousand pounds of the excess||One shilling.|
|for every pound of the next one thousand pounds of the excess||One shilling and ninepence.|
|for every pound of the next one thousand pounds of the excess||Two shillings and sixpence.|
|for every pound of the next one thousand pounds of the excess||Three shillings and threepence.|
|for every pound of the next two thousand pounds of the excess||Four shillings.|
|for every pound of the next two thousand pounds of the excess||Four shillings and ninepence.|
|for every pound of the next ten thousand pounds of the excess||Five shillings and sixpence.|
|for every pound of the re mainder of the excess||Six shillings and threepence.|
(2) That Section 3 of the Finance Act, 1928 (No. 11 of 1928), shall, in relation to the sur-tax for the year beginning on the 6th day of April, 1931, have effect subject to the provisions of this Resolution.
(3) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).
Mr. Blythe: In existing circumstances very much the same arguments that were used against the first Resolution apply to this Resolution. It is a fact that these people, just as other people, have been living during the last couple of years on incomes that were reduced and they are obliged, as matters stand, to reduce expenditure. With the passage of this particular Resolution they will have to reduce expenditure still further and that reduction in expenditure will inevitably be reflected in immediate unemployment. There is absolutely no sense in the Minister saying that people who have to pay additional taxation, if they have to cut down expenditure as a result, merely cut down expenditure out of cussedness. They cut down expenditure because their personal and family budgets must be balanced.
The Minister suggested, when speaking before the Vote on the last motion, that the money of the relatively well-to-do is spent to a greater extent out of the country than the money of the poor. I do not think that would bear examination at all. I think perhaps equally the moneys are spent out of the country. The money of the poor is spent on tea, sugar and bread. The money in respect of tea and sugar practically entirely goes out of the country; the money in regard to bread, in so far as the main part of the cost is concerned, goes out of the country. In the case of clothes the money goes out probably to a greater extent. You may take it that it may safely be said that the expenditure of those who are well-to-do gives employment here to the same extent as expenditure by the poor.
Undoubtedly, as regards the class affected by this Resolution, a good proportion of their money goes directly in giving employment here. There are household servants, gardeners, chauffeurs; then there is the decoration of houses and the giving of other work of that nature, the cost of which goes almost entirely in employment. Consequently, it must inevitably follow from taxes like this and the previous tax that people will in very considerable numbers be thrown out of employment immediately.
And furthermore, as the purchasing power of these people is reduced we have indirect unemployment caused. If they are not able to buy to the extent that they were able to before, then there is less business going to be done in the shops, less employment, and less money going to the factories which supply the shops and so on. The best that can happen a tax of this sort is that the Minister will be able to give some employment to the people that he would like to give it to at the expense of throwing out people already in employment. The position was stated correctly by Deputy Cosgrave when he said that we should keep our eye on the people employed. There is no use concentrating on the unemployed if we do it in such a way as to have just as many thrown out of employment as we succeed in getting into employment either by new taxation or similar methods. There is absolutely no use at all in throwing John out of employment to get James into employment. That is the best that can happen from this Budget, that the Minister or some of his Departments will get the spending of the money and  will be able to use it in the way they think to be electorally best; taking it out of the hands of the people who would spend it in the ordinary way without any electoral object in view. The Minister did not make any attempt in his speech to stick to the financial or economic side of the matter at all. Deputies heard him talking nonsense about the hanging of people for stealing sheep. I do not know how the Minister thinks a question like that arises on this unless he brought it in for the purpose of electioneering as a great deal of this Budget is.
The Minister says that this taxation is necessary to produce stable conditions. After we had listened to him a week ago one would have concluded that the Oath Bill was all that was necessary to do that, and that we were not to have a does of taxation on top of it. The question of stable conditions does not arise. It is all a question of doing the best that can be done for the whole community, those who have the misfortune to be unemployed at the moment, and no less those who have the good fortune to be employed. The Minister, in the existing circumstances in this country, will not by this tax be able to do what I said was the best that could happen; to put one man out of employment for the purpose of putting another man in, because undoubtedly a tax like this, coupled with the previous tax, is going to drive people out of the country. I said already that by his new taxation he was going to get an extra 1s. 6d. for State expenditure and by doing that he was going to lose 15s. to the community, because the 15s. that was spent here was going to be taken out of it by the person entitled to that income going out of the country. The Minister is going to carry that further by this particular Resolution. He is going, both by the actual pressure that the taxation will exercise and by the menace that this taxation carries—by the menace that the whole Budget carries—to drive people, whose incomes are a direct gain to the country and are spent in the main in giving employment here, out of the country and cause them to  give the employment which their money makes possible in another country.
Therefore, the net result of this tax and of the previous one is not that the Minister is going to succeed in getting anyone into employment by putting another out, but he is going to get some people in Great Britain employment by putting people out of employment here. There is not a shadow of doubt, I think, that that is what is going to happen. The Minister could have taken another line. The Minister, in the circumstances, would have had to impose some little increase in taxation, but he could have had regard to the circumstances of the time. He could have made every attempt to keep the taxation as small as possible. That attempt has not been made. As, a matter of fact, the Minister is, I think, deliberately putting on taxation that is unnecessary having regard to any circumstances.
The Minister has said a lot, I do not want to traverse it at the moment, with regard to lack of balancing in the Budget. One has only to look at the debt figures and to have regard to the costs of the Civil War and all the enormous special costs; the cost of reconstruction and so on, to realise that not only was the Budget balanced so far as all normal expenditure was concerned, but that great sums of abnormal expenditure, which might easily have been met by borrowing, were actually met out of taxation. That the Budget in the past has been balanced the Minister knows perfectly well, but he is repeating that it was not balanced solely because he is carrying out some obscure manoeuvre in connection with taxation for some electioneering purpose. I do not know but that he is even deliberately, by this particular tax, putting it on with a notion of salting those who are regarded as rich, while appealing to certain ignorant electors, because there are electors undoubtedly whom the Minister could mislead into the belief that the Party that salted those who were better off than themselves ought to be supported even although that particular salting process is going to drive national income away—that it  is going to cut off community income. With that cutting off it is going to reduce employment and to cause additional hardship. It is going to leave the question of stability exactly where it is. There is no use in the Minister talking about hanging men for stealing sheep or bringing sentimentality into this. This is a matter of business. It is a matter of economic cause and effect, and the putting of it in any picturesque way will not alter the ill results that are embodied in this particular Budget.
Mr. Good: There are just a few questions that I would like to put to the Minister in connection with this tax. As we all know, sur-tax is paid by a comparatively small number of people in this country, people who would be looked upon by most of us as more or less well-to-do. Therefore, they are a class of people who can easily change their abode or domicile. I would like to know from the Minister if he is really anxious to retain this particular class in the country, or is the object of his tax to drive them out of the country? With that view before us, I would like to know what is the level at which this tax starts in Great Britain. Is there any change in the level at which the Minister is starting it here? In the scale of taxes that is proposed in this Resolution, is there a variation from the scale in operation on the other side? Would the Minister also tell me the number of people in this country who pay sur-tax, the present level and the number who would pay it at the new level? Would he also say what is the amount received from sur-tax at the moment, and what he hopes to receive in the future under the revised scale?
Mr. McGilligan: On an earlier motion this evening Deputy Dillon indicated that he was prepared to bear, although grudgingly, an increase of three sixpences in the income tax if he could only get an assurance from the Minister that the tax was not intended to be permanent: that, in fact, the Minister for Finance had the view that this particular type of taxpayer was a person to be cultivated or was regarded as being of some value. I cannot understand how Deputy Dillon could ever  have consoled himself with an assurance to be received from the Minister for Finance if he had sat through his Budget speech and had heard what he said, and had seen the particular gestures with which that speech was accompanied. In relation to this particular impost which we are discussing, the Minister introduced it this way, in Column 1505 of the Debates on 11th May, 1932:
I am anxious to pass on from income tax to sur-tax. We shall have to make changes there also. It is a well-established fact that many folk in comfortable circumstances are quite prepared to pay a good deal to rub shoulders occasionally with the rich.
The imputation is one which no self-respecting citizen of the British Commonwealth could for a moment endure, so we propose to raise the rates of sur-tax throughout the rest of the scale to something like the British level.
Would anybody seek an assurance from a man who introduced a serious business which affects industry in the country with that type of puerility,  that type of fatuity and that clowning? What is the value of an assurance? There is the text, and that is the atmosphere in which this thing is introduced. Quite clearly, the mind of the Minister for Finance has not passed beyond the stage that very immature minds might have been in 25 years ago, when there was a sort of belief that there was a big number of wealthy people who could be mulcted without any reaction on the community. Whether or not that type of immaturity was even a proper thing in the circumstances of 25 years ago, it is quite out of place in relation to the circumstances that hold within the Free State to-day, and although those remarks have less point on this particular Resolution than on the last, they are still not without point in respect of this particular tax. When the “No-Income Tax” agitation was as its height some years ago, a pamphlet was written by Professor O'Rahilly, of Cork, on the matter, and he said:
The really democratic view of taxation is to regard it not as a means of hitting certain classes but rather as the assertion of the community's claim to all surplus earnings, whether of Capital or Labour, which can effectively produce only with the help of organised society.
It is not an amount which can be theoretically and generally calculated by a theory applicable to all countries; it varies with conditions and national circumstances. This surplus is that portion the withdrawal of which will not here and now injure the necessary supply of Capital and Labour in any given country. When taxation trenches on this necessary minimum, there occurs a shrinkage and transfer of the productive agent concerned, whether Capital or Labour, in the trades or country concerned.
I say that the Minister should have got his Parliamentary Secretary to read portion of that to him and cut out the puerile stuff we were served with on the Budget. That is sound, and in the circumstances that hold here in this  country at this moment, there is not the slightest doubt about it that even this attack, by way of super-tax on big incomes is going to have its reactions, and going to have its reactions almost immediately, on employment and upon that occurring there will certainly follow what Deputy Blythe has referred to—there is going to be, instead of the certainty of employment given at the moment, merely a possibility of reduced employment because in the transfer there is going to be a certain amount of wastage, and secondly, there is no possibility, and no certainty, at any rate, that the State is going to make any more effective use of this money by way of employment which it gathers in from the people who own it. I might be asked, at this point, what is the alternative, and I come back again to the alternative which the Minister for Finance and his Party promised us before. In a speech on the Supplementary Resolution, on 6th November last, in Column 1146, the present Minister for Finance said:
Had he any alternative in view? We must, however, come back to our advertisements. “Fianna Fáil has a plan.” I do not know if the Minister ever read these things, but he is going to know about them before we are finished with this Budget.
Apparently his Parliamentary Secretary does not believe that that advertisement was meant to apply to this year. We do not know whether it is to apply even to next year, but, according to himself, it is to apply before he next goes to the country—a wise precaution. But the advertisement was rather precise, the advertisement that was put in and which promised us
Fianna Fáil is satisfied that substantial economies are feasible without reducing social services, inflicting hardship on any class of Government servants, or impairing in the slightest degree the efficiency of the administrative machine.
It has examined with minute care the estimates of supply services for the current year and is convinced that a saving of many hundred thousand pounds can be made, not including such items as the sum of £1,152,500 paid to the British Government in respect of R.I.C. pensions and other similar payments not required by the Treaty.
After a minute examination of the estimates for public services for the current year, Fianna Fáil is convinced that £2,000,000 can be saved. If we had that £2,000,000 saved, we could wipe out a lot of these Resolutions. Why have we not got them? There was a minute examination. There was care shown about it. It was not something thrown out in the dark, because we had had all the talks there had been in the Dáil for years previously.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should come back to the question of sur-tax that is before the House, and realise that if we were to have on each of these Resolutions, a debate on the election policy of Fianna Fáil, and  the general Budget policy, there would be no finality.
Mr. McGilligan: —that if we proceeded to criticise any resolution which brings in taxes this year, to suggest an alternative. On this Resolution which is to bring in £77,000, according to the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement, I am suggesting that a very small saving of the £2,000,000 economies which they promised, would obviate the necessity for this Resolution. I am speaking precisely to Resolution No. 2 in relation to sur-tax, and I have almost finished. I want to repeat, in case the necessary interruption may have distracted the attention of the Minister from what I was saying—“It has examined with minute care the estimates for supply services for the current year and is convinced that a saving of many hundreds of thousands of pounds can be made.” There is then added: “The burden of taxation can be lightened by not less than two million per year.” I suggest that that is this year. Why cannot we get that two million pounds and cut out these Resolutions about income tax and sur-tax?
Mr. MacEntee: I do not see why Deputy McGilligan should be alarmed if I sometimes find even his repeated witticisms amusing. I cannot help it. If the appearance of the front bench opposite be so mock melancholy on a discussion of this sort, I am compelled to smile. I am, I confess, of a somewhat optimistic nature. When I see the good humoured face of Deputy O'Sullivan, I cannot help reciprocating the happiness which I see portrayed there—particularly, when he knows as  well as I do that the whole of this debate is a hollow sham. We have heard Deputy McGilligan and Deputy Blythe waxing eloquent about the amount of unemployment this increase in the sur-tax is going to cause. We will throw away the fiction and get down to the facts. I shall take what I think is the most typical case of sur-tax payer here—the £2,000 man, who earns £1,500 a year and derives an additional income of £500 from investments. He would have paid last year, if he had a wife and three children, £271 13s. 9d. This year he will pay £298 10s. 0d. Last year, under Deputy Cosgrave's Government, the effective rate of income tax and sur-tax on that individual would have been 2/8 in the £. This year, the effective rate will be 2/11. What is the conclusion to be drawn from that? If a single word of the speeches we have heard from the opposite benches be true, then they had taxed that man up to the limit of his capacity and they are just as blameworthy as we are, that, in the present circumstances, we have to impose an extra 3d. piece of taxation on him. That fact blows sky high the whole case which the Opposition has striven to make against this Resolution.
Professor Alton: I do not like to interrupt the Minister but I should like him to tell me how he arrives at that figure of 2/11. I am not a good mathematician and I should like if he would give me the items.
Mr. MacEntee: Possibly. The Budget is based on expectation of reduction of national income this year. If it were not for that, we would not have to impose a good deal of taxation, just as the British would not have to do so.
Mr. MacEntee: We have something less, so far as social services are concerned, than co-equality with the British. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot have people asking us to give effect to certain principles—maintenance or work—and at the same time expect to get money to give effect to those principles in any other way than through the Budget of the nation.
Mr. MacEntee: Deputy Good wanted to know the number of taxpayers at the old rate and with the reduction of the sur-tax level to £1,500. We are not able to give those figures because they have never been taken out. I pressed for them on many occasions and I was not able to get them from my predecessor. The figures are not in the possession of the Revenue Commissioners and, consequently, I am not able to give them to the House. The British level of sur-tax is £2,000. We are reducing the level to £1,500.
Mr. MacEntee: The rate on each £ in excess of £1,500 up to £2,000 will be 6d. here. That is set forth in the  Resolution. There is no sur-tax on that range of income in Great Britain. On incomes from £2,000 to £2,500, the new rate here will be 1s., and in Great Britain the rate will be 1s. 1-5d. On the range of income between £3,000 and £4,000, the new rate here will be 1s. 9d. and the British rate is 2s. 2 2-5d. On the range of income between £8,000 and £10,000, the new rate here will be 4s. 9d. and the British rate is 5s. 6d. On the range of income between £15,000 and £20,000, the new rate here will be 5s. 6d. and in Great Britain it is 6s. 7 1-5d.
Browne, William Frazer.
Corish, Richard. Humphreys, Francis.
Kelly, James Patrick.
Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
Keyes, Raphael Patrick.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
Lynch, James B.
Maguire, Conor Alexander.
Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
|Corry, Martin John.
Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
De Valera, Eamon.
Dowdall, Thomas P.
Flinn, Hugo. V.
Gorry, Patrick Joseph.
Hogan, Patrick (Clare). Norton, William.
O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
O'Reilly, Thomas J.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
Ward, Francis C. (Dr.).
|Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Bourke, Séamus A.
Broderick, William Jos.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Cosgrave, William T.
Craig, Sir James.
Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
Gorey, Denis John.
Hassett, John J.
Minch, Sydney B.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Murphy, James Edward.
O'Brien, Eugene P.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Reynolds, Mrs. Mary.
Thrift, William Edward.
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