Budget 2018 has been officially unveiled by Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe, receiving a mixed reaction across the board. Farming organisation Macra na Feirme probably summed it up best as “an inch deep and a mile wide” – something for everyone but not very much.
Among the highlights is a reduction in prescription charges for medical card holders under the age of 70 from €2.50 to €2, while nearly 4,000 social houses should be built as a result of a €1.83 billion allocation to housing. Universal Social Charge rates have been reduced, and a sugar tax of between 20c and 30c will be imposed from April 2018. While the latter will undoubtedly impact on the pockets of Irish consumers, the move has been welcomed in a number of quarters, including the Irish Heart Foundation.
“The introduction of a sugar-sweetened drinks levy is probably the single most important action Government can take to tackle Ireland’s obesity crisis. As a result, this is a landmark day in the fight against what is now recognised as perhaps the biggest threat to the health of the nation,” said the organisation’s head of advocacy, Chris Macey, who also welcomed the 50c increase on a pack of cigarettes. “It is estimated that the tobacco industry needs 50 young people to take up smoking every day in Ireland to replace those its products kill or who manage to quit. Every tobacco tax increase represents another nail in the coffin of this vile industry by acting as a disincentive to young people to take up the habit.”
Elsewhere, the minimum wage is set to increase again to €9.55 in January 2018, edging closer towards the so-called ‘living wage’ of €11.70, while social welfare payments will increase by €5 in March. Various tax changes mean that Ireland’s middle income earners will be better off by around €5 per week – not much though better than nothing.
For an overview of what Budget 2018 will mean for your pocket, TheJournal.ie has put together a handy explanatory video.