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Separated dad sets up 'equality group' after Budget tax changes

New proposed changes to the One Parent Family Credit have been announced – and separated parents are not happy.

Image: Dad holding child's hand via http://www.shutterstock.com

A SEPARATED FATHER has founded an equality group for parents after being disappointed by the changes to tax credits in Budget 2014.

Dara O’Brien set up a group called Irish Fathers for Equality after the Budget announcement, as he believed the proposal was going to hit separated fathers more than separated mothers. But after getting requests from mothers and grandparents, the group’s name was changed to Irish Parents for Equality.

Tax credit change

Under the proposed Budget change, the One Parent Family Tax Credit would be replaced with a Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit, with the credit being given to the primary carer of the child or children, rather than both parents.

Irish Parents for Equality and groups such as One Family have carried out campaigns and contacted numerous government representatives on the issue, as they feel fathers would be disproportionately affected by this.

This week the news came that the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, intends on amending the Finance Bill at Committee Stage to allow for the Single Parent Tax Credit to be used by a non-primary carer in situations where the primary carer has no tax liability.

O’Brien said he saw quite a few problems with the original proposal, including the fact that it would disproportionately affect low income earners.

“We have extreme doubts about how they are going to implement the splitting of the tax credit,” he said.

According to O’Brien, the only way to do this is to allocate it to the primary carer, which in most cases is the mother. However, he said that in a lot of situations there isn’t a “sufficiently good relationship for that to happen meaningfully”.

The group does acknowledge that the current system is open to abuse, he said. Ideally, the members would like the government to keep the system intact as it is, and restrict the credit to parents or legal guardians of children. They would like if the primary carer did retain the credit but allow the secondary carer to claim it once they can provide proof they are providing maintenance.

O’Brien said the change could mean less money coming in for some separated parents, and it is “probably going to reopen old wounds” in cases where people go back to court to renegotiate maintenance because of the change.

It’s bad enough for the father to be deemed secondary carer, but to have all financial recognition removed from them, it’s like the State saying to a child ‘you have only one parent who matters here’. It wasn’t well thought out.

Another single father told TheJournal.ie that he has a shared parenting agreement with his daughter’s mother, but fears the changes to tax credits could leave him out of pocket. “I used to bring my daughter swimming, buy food for her, buy clothes for her. I don’t earn a fortune and I’ve gone down two days in work.”

Due to the changes that were announced he “actually said to [my ex-partner], look, I can’t buy all the things I was buying for [our daughter]“.

He said the tax changes make him feel restricted, and would also make other parents who love doing things with their children feel restricted.

He said he can understand that some men are “not doing much for their kids” but “that can be fixed”, by getting a sworn statement from the mother.

“If you can prove you are looking after your kid, you should be given tax credit,” he said.

A Dublin Fianna Fáil representative told TheJournal.ie that he had received calls from fathers worried about being able to make maintenance payments due to the tax credit change.

One Family has been campaigning for the tax credit to be reinstated. Of the newly-announced proposal, Stuart Duffin of One Family said it was “a small step and it was welcomed, but it took a lot of effort”.

“Shared parenting is still being penalised by the government,” he said. He also said some things remain unclear:

If the primary carer of the child isn’t working, it transfers – but what if the primary carer starts work, do they pull it back? What we’re envisioning in the future could be an increase in family disputes.

They are calling on the government to have a “constructive look at this rather than just a gut reaction” and to find something that’s more sustainable.

Read: Hundreds of separated dads concerned over “unjust” tax credit change>

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