FROM TODAY, A number of key measures introduced under Budget 2014 last October come into effect.
The much-debated Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act also comes into force today, the regulations for which were finally signed at the end of December. The act was signed into law on 30 July of this year.
The bill was the subject of much debate in the Dáil this summer. Its commencement as an Act means that a woman is legally allowed access to an abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to her life, including risk of suicide.
This suicide clause – part 9 of the act – was one of the most contentious parts of the legislation. A number of TDs and Senators tabled amendments that would have removed this section or substantially altered it.
However, all these amendments were defeated.
BUDGET 2014 MEASURES
A number of other major measures have also come into force today.
Bed charges: Private patients who use public hospital beds will be subject to new charges, saving the State €30m. This move has been criticised by insurance companies who say it will drive up premiums and has placed an extra “€300 million on 1.2 million people”, or even result in the closure of private hospitals.
Single Parents or Carers: What was known as the One-Parent Family (OPF) Tax Credit will become the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit, which will be of the same value. The difference between the two will be that the new credit will only be available ‘to the principal carer of the child’. The decision has been criticised by some single parents.
Invalidity Pension: This will technically only come into effect tomorrow, as it applies to people who in 2014 reach the age of 65, in the case of those already in receipt of the pension, and age 66 for those qualified to receive it. The weekly rate of Invalidity Pension will be reduced for these people by €36.80 to €193.50. This will result in savings of €5 million.
State Pension (Transition): As previously announced, this will no longer be paid to people who reach age 65 on or after today.
Bereavement Grant: Achieving a saving of €17 million per year, this €850 payment no longer applies from today. Minister Brendan Howlin defended this move by noting there is still “a very generous provision” to pensioners in case of their spouse passing away.
Telephone Allowance: The Department of Social Protection is advising claimaints that this allowance no longer applies to bills from today. This, along with other cuts affecting pensions, led to protests outside Leinster House earlier this year.
Ex-Gratia Payments: A reduced rate of tax was available on lump sums received when leaving employment, known as Top Slicing Relief, but will be abolished from today.
Illness Benefit: Previously the first three days of an illness could not be claimed for under this payment, but this has now been raised to six days. Given the time-frame involved, this comes into effect on 6 January.
VAT: One change will come into affect today, affecting the farmer’s flat-rate addition. This applied to farmers who had not registered for the tax, and compensates them for VAT incurred on the sale of their produce to those who are registered for the tax. This will rise 0.2 per cent to 5 per cent.
DIRT: The rate of tax on interest payments from midnight tonight will rise to 41 per cent from between 33 and 36 per cent, depending on the frequency of payment. The pension levy will also rise to 0.75 per cent in 2014.
Capital Gains Tax relief: Relief for properties purchased between 7 December 2011 and 31 December 2013 has been extended to include properties bought to the end of this year.
Mortgage Interest Relief: This will be phased out from today, being closed to new entries.
Jobseeker’s Allowance: There will be no changes to the rates of primary weekly social welfare payments and pensions. However, from 14 January there will be changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance. For more, see Citizen’s Information.
Education and Training: People receiving Invalidity Pension, Illness Benefit, One-Parent Family Payment, Farm Assist or Fish Assist will not be eligible to receive a SOLAS (formerly FÁS) or Youthreach training allowance in addition to a social welfare payment. (This applies to new participants only). An additional payment of €20 to long-term unemployed participants in SOLAS or VTOS and Youthreach schemes will end from today.
Standard Fund Threshold: This is being reduced from €2.3m to €2m, and there are also measures to standardise payouts between those who retire early and others.
- Additional reporting Nicky Ryan