Thursday, 18 November 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Treacy: asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the imminent threat of withdrawal of services by part-time firemen with consequent danger to life and property throughout the State, he will take steps to exempt from the payment of income tax remuneration received by them for the performance of their duties.
Mr. Colley: If I were to introduce legislation to exempt part-time firemen from income tax, I would find it extremely difficult to resist demands by many other groups who could make a case for similar treatment with effects of a most damaging nature on the structure and yield of the tax. Accordingly, I cannot see my way to introduce legislation which would grant the exemption sought by the Deputy.
I might add that it seems to me that what is involved, fundamentally, in this case is the appropriate level of remuneration paid to part-time firemen as they do not appear to consider that the existing level reflects adequately the value and nature of their services. The Deputy will appreciate that I have no function in regard to the remuneration of part-time firemen.
Mr. Treacy: Would the Minister not agree that it is particularly unfair that firemen who perform such an essential national service on a voluntary basis should be taxed and taxed doubly in the sense that they are taxed on their ordinary earnings and taxed again on the earnings that accrue from fire-fighting? The Minister is aware that the question of increased remuneration is not the issue, since income tax will continue to be deducted, but what is the issue is that income tax should not be deducted from earnings accruing from fire-fighting operations? In the light of that, will the Minister agree to reconsider his decision on this important matter and so avert the possibility of a withdrawal of services?
Mr. Colley: I could not agree with that. The real issue appears to be the level of remuneration for the services rendered. If this were to be accepted, it would benefit some firemen far more than it would benefit others, depending on the level of their remuneration. It seems to me clearly to be an issue on which any difficulty should be dealt with by way of examination of the level of remuneration.
Mr. Tully: Would the Minister not agree that practically all of those who are employed as part-time firemen are people who have other jobs and who are already assessed for income tax and therefore he can take it that the amount of tax being taken from each of them would be approximately the same? It would be at the standard rate of 7s in the £. A man whose retainer amounts to £66 would get less than £40 after income tax had been deducted. Therefore, if the Minister can do nothing about this on the income tax level would he request his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, to increase the rates for firemen? Is the Minister not aware that his predecessor was able to allow exemption from income tax in respect of special artists? Surely this could be done, too, in the case of firemen.
Mr. Colley: It is a question of what remuneration they should get because if they were exempt from income tax, their remuneration would be greater. To do it in that way involves various problems, some of which I have indicated. I have no function in the matter of increased remuneration but there is a procedure open to them to have their remuneration increased.
Mr. Treacy: Would the Minister be good enough to meet a deputation of the union concerned so that he can ascertain at first hand the seriousness of the matter? It is not a question of increased remuneration. What is the purpose of increasing remuneration if it is to be taxed?
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