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Why do so few Irish people claim back their medical expenses?

Anyone can do it, yet nearly 60% of Irish citizens decline the option of applying for what is effectively free money.

shutterstock_657853636 Source: Shutterstock/Zadorozhna Natalia

JUST FOUR IN 10 Irish people claim back the tax they pay on medical expenses, according to a new survey.

The study, of 800 Irish PAYE employees taken by tax rebate specialists Taxback.com, indicates that just 44% of Irish taxpayers have applied for refunds on their expenses in the past four years.

At present, a tax rebate of 20% on medical expenses (that are not covered by either the State or health insurance) can be claimed by applying to the Revenue Commissioners. It’s not a new benefit either – it’s been around since 1967.

That amounts to €12 for a single €60 GP visit – figures that can start to add up quickly.

The priciest medical expenses that can affect ordinary people – such as nursing home care (which can be reclaimed at the highest rate of tax) or IVF fertility treatment are all covered by the rebate.

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So why do so few people here neglect to apply for what could amount to a very welcome cash injection?

A lack of awareness may be one reason, but Barry Flanagan, senior manager at Taxback.com says there may be another, easy-to-identify-with, reason:

“The reasons for this are varied but feedback from clients suggests that one reason is that they believe the process is too complex and time-consuming.”

I can understand why people might think this – anything to do with tax and form-filling tends to make people’s eyes glaze over, but in reality this is one of the most straightforward things you’ll ever do in terms of personal admin – easier than shopping online I would say.

Despite this, Flanagan says that it “beggars belief” that more people don’t reclaim what they’re entitled to.

Most people who do reclaim their expenses do so for common medical payments such as GP or consultant visits (76% of claimants), or the resultant prescribed medicines (49% of claimants).

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The opposite is also the case – 58% of respondents have not claimed for GP or consultant fees in the past four years; 49% failed to claim for prescriptions, and 44% failed to claim for non-routine dental expenses.

“If I had to take an educated guess based on dealing with clients, I would say that people who had laser eye surgery, those who had IVF, and those who had doctor-referred physiotherapy didn’t claim because they were simply unaware that there are reliefs available for these expenses,” says Flanagan.

Many people think it’s just doctors’ visits that are covered – that is not the case.

Applications for these kinds of expense refunds can either be done on the web via Revenue’s online account service (this service needs to be registered for), or via mail using either a Med1 (for medical claims) or Med2 (for dental expenses) form.

The time limit for such claims isn’t even particularly draconian – you have four tax years to apply for a rebate from the time the expense was incurred.

ned1 The Med1 form Source: Revenue.ie

Last year, the Irish State refunded €145.5 million in medical expenses –  a significant figure by any estimation. If all people applied for their entitlements however, Flanagan estimates that figure “could be doubled”.

“We advise all clients to start keeping their receipts in a shoebox or a drawer in the future and if they have not done this to request copies of receipts from their GP or chemist,” he says, adding that even if a fee is charged for the provision of a receipt “you’re still going to get more back than you spent”.

Get your receipts together; get what’s owed.

More information is available regarding these claims on Revenue’s website and here

Read: ‘If 17 people got hit on the roads in a day it’d be huge news’ – off-duty lifeguards save man from lethal rip-tide

Read: GPs will launch campaign to encourage patients to seek treatment abroad

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