Tuesday, 6 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
581. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will reform the social insurance arrangements in order that a person may employ their spouse and pay social insurance on their account. [25901/01]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Under the provisions of social welfare legislation, the social insurance status of spouses engaged in a family business varies according to individual circumstances. Spouses who are engaged in a business partnership are treated as individual self employed contributors. Both spouses make social insurance contributions and will be eligible, in due course, to qualify individually and in their own right for social insurance pensions, including old age contributory pension. While there are specific requirements in company law regarding business partnerships, there is no restriction on married couples, per se, carrying on a commercial venture as a business partnership. Alternatively, where a family business is incorporated as a limited company, spouses who are engaged in the business pay PRSI either as employees of the company or as self-employed persons, if they are the proprietary directors of that company.
However, the legislation also provides that a person who is employed directly by his-her  spouse is not covered by social insurance. Social insurance contributions are not payable and the employed spouse is not covered in his or her own right for social insurance pensions. Likewise, if a spouse participates in the business of a self-employed contributor, but is not a partner in the business, social insurance contributions are not payable and the participating or assisting spouse is not covered for social insurance pensions or benefits.
Any person who wishes to seek a formal decision as to whether an employment or self-employment is insurable for social insurance purposes should apply to Scope section of my Department. Where a person is dissatisfied with the relevant decision there is a right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.
As regards contributions, a number of arrangements are already in place which cater for the position of persons who are no longer compulsorily covered by social insurance. Former contributors can opt, subject to certain conditions, to make voluntary contributions. In general, voluntary contributions give cover for the pensions which people were covered for when last working as an employee or a self-employed person and thereby enable such persons to maintain social insurance cover.
During the course of the coming year it is proposed to examine the current arrangements applying to the social insurance position of spouses engaged in a family business and consideration will be given to any appropriate changes highlighted by this examination. I will bring forward appropriate legislative changes in due course.
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