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Readers' panel: Small business owner

Con Traas owns a small business in south Tipperary and is concerned about the effect of the rise in VAT rate.

Con Traas
Con Traas

Con Traas is a 43-year-old small business owner in south Tipperary. His company, The Apple Farm, makes and grows fruit products. Before the announcement he had been concerned about the effect of the VAT rise.

I’m very disappointed that they went through with the VAT rise. You keep hoping that they mightn’t go through with it or that they might have a change of plan but it’s there.  Foods that are considered to be luxury items – such as the apple juice which we make – would be considered to be everyday items in most countries, but in Ireland it’s a luxury. So that would be the biggest disappointment.

A lot of the detail isn’t there yet but I didn’t really see anything that might be good for small businesses. Reducing the stamp duty on commercial properties could suit some businesses. I was glad to see the government doing something on below-cost alcohol from a business point of view. That’s something that might be good for people in small-scale brewing companies which are already at a disadvantage compared to the big ones.

The carbon tax news today was good. We’re much more energy efficient than large businesses so it would suit us that energy would be taxed. On the downside I’m disappointed that there’s no carbon credit, so you don’t get the benefits of your efficiency. We use solar heating and renewable energy so our energy costs are lowered, but in a lot of countries we’d get a credit for that, which could be traded on. So that’s disappointing as we only get half the benefit of the efficiency.

Overall a lot of the reforms announced in the Budget seem piecemeal rather than real reform. Without going into precise mechanics of tackling either the people or the system causing the waste, they’re just taking it off the top and it’s affecting everyone in the system. That seems to be the way reforms in Ireland have always been done. There’s a lack of enthusiasm for tackling the real hard issues.

I had hoped that there would be a hefty sugar tax on the likes of fizzy drinks. It would have helped to balance the pitch towards small-scale artisan drinks producers who don’t make the cheap sugar-sweetened type drinks.

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