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Column Restoring the Christmas bonus should be a no-brainer

A reintroduction of the Christmas bonus would be a huge boost for both people who rely on social welfare payments and for the economy, writes Patrick Nulty TD.

IT IS TIME for the Government to reinstate the Christmas Bonus, the once-off end of year payment for elderly people, carers and long-term social welfare recipients.

The Labour Party was right, when in 2009 and in opposition, they said: “If the cancellation of the December social welfare bonus is approved, it will represent an outright attack on the most needy and the ‘savings’ will mean that people will be forced to go to money lenders as families struggle to get through what can be a tough time of year.”

Four years on, it is time for the Government to look at this issue again. Put simply, the restoration of the Christmas bonus would be a huge boost for people who rely on social welfare payments and for the economy. The total cost of the restoration of the Christmas bonus would be €260 million. This money is likely to be spent mainly in the local economy, giving a valuable boost to domestic economic activity.

The €260 million is a gross figure because it does not take account of the extra revenue that would be generated through VAT and Excise Duty receipts from people spending the bonus.

A much-needed boost

Reinstating the Christmas bonus would mean a little bit more money toward Christmas presents for children. It would mean a few euro extra would be available for trips to local facilities and amenities. Furthermore, given that older people and those on low incomes are struggling to heat their homes at this time of year, the Christmas bonus would help pay for essential fuel costs.

There are a number of ways to raise the additional revenue. Why not start at the top? Much more could be done to tackle tax evasion and white collar crime. I have pointed out on numerous occasions, that allowing the revenue commissioners to employ 125 additional staff would raise 95 million euro, according to the Government’s own figures.

This ought be a no brainier. However, the Government’s rigid adherence to the public sector recruitment embargo is preventing them from taking action.

Move against our tax exiles

Despite years of talk, no action has been taken to move against our tax exiles, some of whom are the most powerful figures in the state. There are a number of ways to ta high earners more effectively. Some of the measures to more fairly tax higher income groups, such as a wealth tax, are long standing features of taxation policy elsewhere. A wealth tax, if applied along the lines for the French model, would raise 500 million euro, for example.

I have had very few opportunities to agree with Minister Joan Burton in recent years. However, I do agree with what she said in April 2009 when she commented: “The Christmas bonus abolition is particularly mean-spirited and cutting welfare at a time of the year when people come under severe financial pressure will lead to people resorting to money lenders and high-interest loan providers.”

The Labour Party should make good on its policies in opposition, which secured the support of so many people who actually voted for the party in 2011, and re-introduce the Christmas Bonus.

Patrick Nulty is a TD for Dublin West

Burton: There’ll be no delay restoring Jobseeker payments for seasonal workers

Read: €1 million deducted from social welfare benefits to pay property tax

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