Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD on Budget 2022

From Department of Finance

By: Minister for Finance; Paschal Donohoe

Published on 12 October 2021

Last updated on 12 October 2021


1. Introduction
2. COVID-19: Government response
3. Macroeconomic outlook
4. Budgetary stance
5. Budget 2022 measures
6. Conclusion

Check against delivery

Introduction

A Ceann Comhairle,

The last time I announced a budget in this chamber two years ago, none of us could have foreseen that the worst global pandemic in a century awaited. We knew well about the risks associated with Brexit, and had prepared for it. We could not have predicted the devastation which COVID-19 would leave in its wake. Both events have demonstrated the need for us to always prepare for the worst, while still striving for the best.

Many lives were lost and many livelihoods were ruined. The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented experience for all of us, and unfortunately life-changing for many.

But it also brought out the very best in Irish society: the bravery, resilience and fortitude of our front-line workers; the commitment of those working in the community and social care sectors; and the determination of ordinary people across our country to get their loved ones through the pandemic as safely as possible.

Our efforts have worked. Our solidarity, our common purpose has saved lives and allowed our society and economy to reopen. Our country now reaches for a better and brighter future. Minister McGrath and I have worked together with all parties and all colleagues in this government so that Budget 2022 is a path to that future.

COVID-19: Government response

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the role of Government in supporting both our economy and society.

While the response from Government was unparalleled – with over €48 billion provided for over three years – it was also a response that was fully justified.

Through the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), approximately €17 ½ billion has been directed to individuals, families and businesses.

Our supports worked.

We responded in the right way at the right time.

This response was strengthened by the solidarity of the European Union.

But that response could only take place due to the careful management of the economy in the years leading up to the pandemic.

We managed our affairs well in better times, so that we could support at a time of great national difficulty.

We are now entering a new phase where we will:

  • recover from the pandemic
  • restore our public services and living standards
  • repair our public finances

In framing this Budget, we have been conscious of the cost of living pressures that are currently confronting citizens and businesses.

As the recovery increasingly takes hold, and citizens get back to some level of normality, we in Government remain focused on our higher levels of debt, which my department is forecasting will come in at just under €240 billion next year and the real risks associated with that.

Budget 2022 meets the twin goals of investing in our future, of meeting the needs of today, while putting the public finances on a sustainable path.

Macroeconomic outlook

Turning to our domestic forecasts. While the re-imposition of COVID-related restrictions during the first quarter of this year led to a further contraction of the domestic economy, the decline in activity was not as severe as that seen during the initial lockdown last spring.

Due to the success of our vaccination programme, restrictions were eased over the course of the second quarter, with the domestic economy recovering strongly as a result.

Modified Domestic Demand, the best measure of the domestic economy, grew by almost 8½ per cent in the second quarter, and surpassed the level immediately preceding the pandemic for the first time since the start of the crisis.

Having accumulated significant savings during the pandemic, consumer spending is leading the way. At the end of the second quarter, spending was just 3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

For this year as a whole, Modified Domestic Demand is expected to grow by 5¼ per cent and by 6½ per cent in 2022.

The strong rebound in domestic economic activity has been accompanied by rising inflationary pressures, with consumer price inflation expected to reach 3.7 per cent in September, which would be the highest rate since June 2008.

This recent rise in inflation is partly a result of temporary factors, which are expected to fade over time. This includes the normalisation of oil prices following their collapse in spring last year and the mismatch between demand and supply that has emerged following the reopening of the economy.

However, acute supply chain pressures including shipping capacity, shortages of raw materials, labour shortages in certain sectors, as well as rising energy prices mean that there are further risks to inflation and the cost of living.

The government also continues to be aware of, and prepared for, the risks and consequences of Brexit.

Strong tax receipts throughout the year, particularly VAT and income tax, reflect the positive momentum in the economy. These receipts were built on the back of the government’s various support schemes over the past year and a half – without schemes such as the EWSS and PUP, tax revenue would have plummeted as jobs would have been threatened and lost.

The jobs outlook has also improved significantly. PUP numbers are now under 100,000 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, falling from almost half a million since early February.

The sharp fall in PUP recipients and improving labour market conditions have prompted the current COVID-adjusted unemployment rate to fall below 10 per cent, the lowest rate since the onset of the pandemic. By year end the unemployment rate is forecast to be just over 9 per cent. Employment is forecast to grow by just under 8 per cent or around 150,000 jobs this year.

Next year, the unemployment rate is expected to fall to around 6½ per cent by the fourth quarter, still higher than the pre-pandemic rate of around 5 per cent. Employment is expected to grow by just over 13 per cent or 275,000 jobs in 2022.

Overall, more than 400,000 jobs will be added to the economy between this year and next, and employment is expected to reach and exceed its pre-pandemic level during the course of 2022. This performance, by any measure, represents a remarkable rebound in our jobs outlook.

We are recovering. The resilience of the Irish people, sensible fiscal policies before the pandemic and our economic supports during the crisis are the ingredients in the recovery.

But this recovery must also deliver more homes, better progress on climate change and help with a cost of living that is rising. Minister McGrath and I know this, it has led to the important decisions in Budget 2022.

Budgetary stance

Public spending next year will amount to €87.6 billion – the government has been steadfast in its commitment to keeping this amount below the ceiling laid out in the Summer Economic Statement. Our medium-term strategy sets out that over the next two budgets we will:

  • restore our public services, phase out temporary COVID-related spending, and
  • repair our public finances

This strategy strikes the appropriate balance between tapering supports and investing in the domestic economy. In Budget 2022 core current expenditure will grow by 4.6 per cent in line with the trend growth of our economy. By 2022, we will only be borrowing for capital spending.

It is worth recalling how dramatically the budgetary landscape has transformed over the last two years, and in particular, how we entered the crisis with a budgetary surplus of €2 billion.

In the Summer Economic Statement my department forecast a combined deficit of just over €34½ billion for 2021 and 2022.

Ceann Comhairle, I am revising that forecast to €21½ billion for both years, a reduction of approximately 40 per cent.

Critically, this means that our debt as a share of national income is now falling, and falling significantly. On this point, I no longer believe that it is appropriate to consider our debt burden in terms of Gross Domestic Product given the volatility associated with that particular measure of economic activity. It will be more important to reference national income.

As a share of national income, our debt will therefore fall from 106 per cent this year, to 99 percent next year, reaching 89½ percent in 2025.

As such, it is clear that we are reducing our overall borrowing this year and next. However, it is also clear that the amounts involved are still substantial.

The expenditure associated with Budget 2022 will bring our overall national debt to just under €240 billion. That means debt of nearly €50,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.

This is not where we want to be when interest rates start to rise again. That is why we need to repair our public finances, and put them back on a sustainable footing.

Budget 2022 measures

Today I am announcing a total budgetary package of €4.7 billion. This is in line with the Summer Economic Statement and has not been changed as a result of the improved Exchequer performance in recent months.

This will be split between expenditure measures worth €4.2 billion and tax measures worth €½ billion, including revenue raising measures of approximately €230 million.

The pandemic is still with us. We have therefore made provision for temporary supports to continue in order to provide certainty for those most impacted, and flexibility for the public finances should the situation with the virus deteriorate unexpectedly over the coming year.

To this end, a contingency fund amounting to €4 billion will be created.

Future supports – EWSS

In relation to the current supports, I have been steadfast in my commitment that there will be no cliff-edge to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme which has been an extremely successful policy instrument during these challenging times; one which has greatly assisted us in maintaining the link between employers and employees.

I am pleased to announce that the EWSS will remain in place in a graduated form until the 30th of April 2022 – that is six months after the lifting of most public health restrictions and two months after the PUP ceases.

The following are the broad parameters of this extension:

  • no change to EWSS for the months of October and November
  • businesses availing of the EWSS on the 31st of December 2021 will continue to be supported until the 30th of April 2022
  • across December, January and February, a two-rate structure of €151.50 and €203 will apply
  • for March and April 2022, the final two months of the scheme, a flat rate subsidy of €100 will be put in place. The reduced rate of Employers’ PRSI will no longer apply for these two months
  • the scheme will close to new employers from the 1st of January 2022

These revised arrangements for EWSS strike a balance between helping those businesses which continue to need support, while recalibrating the scheme in light of the wider economic recovery.

Aviation

The aviation sector has paid a particularly heavy price during the pandemic. I am therefore taking the opportunity in the forthcoming Finance Bill to amend the taxation arrangements which apply to international air crews under Section 127B of the income tax code.

This move will support the sector in its recovery.

VAT rate for hospitality

The reduced VAT rate of 9 per cent for the hospitality sector will remain in place to the end of August 2022.

Remote working

As many have experienced over the past year and a half, remote working can become part of a better work/life balance. Government policy is to facilitate and support remote work and, in this regard, I am announcing an income tax deduction amounting to 30 per cent of the cost of vouched expenses for heat, electricity and broadband in respect of those incurred while working from home, which will be formalised in legislation through the Finance Bill.

This will support living standards as the economy starts to recover. However, it will also be kept under review from the perspective of its interaction with the National Climate Policy Position.

Income tax

Ceann Comhairle, as prices rise and inflation returns, the government wants to ease the cost of living pressures which many are feeling.

I am therefore announcing today an income tax package to the value of almost €520 million which will:

  • firstly, increase the standard rate band by €1,500
  • secondly, increase each of the personal tax credit, employee tax credit and earned income credit by €50

These changes will benefit everyone who pays income tax. Along with other measures that will be announced by Minister McGrath they aim to help citizens at a time when prices are rising.

Universal Social Charge

The government accepts the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission to increase the national minimum wage by 30 cent to €10.50 per hour.

In addition, in order to ensure that the salary of a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of the Universal Social Charge, the ceiling of the second USC rate band will be increased from €20,687 to €21,295 – a move which will give a benefit to workers whose income is above that amount.

I am also retaining the exemption from the top rate of USC for all medical card holders and those over-70 earning less than €60,000.

Housing

As everyone in this chamber is well aware, a core, if not the core challenge facing the country over the next number of years is housing.

Recent figures show national property price inflation of just under 9 per cent in July. The rise in prices is due to the imbalance between housing demand and supply, as well as the impact of some of the savings built up over the pandemic being directed into housing.

I appreciate the strain, anxiety and worry caused by the shortage of homes.

This is why the government is determined to build more homes.

This is why total housing expenditure has more than doubled since 2016, and as of 2021, it will be more than 40 per cent above the peak level in 2008.

Zoned Land Tax

The government’s Housing for All strategy targets delivery of, on average, 33,000 new homes per annum out to 2030.

Housing construction has already rebounded rapidly this year and there were almost 30,000 housing commencements in the 12 months to August.

As part of Housing for All, I will be introducing a Zoned Land Tax to encourage the use of land for building homes. The primary objective of the measure is to increase the supply of residential accommodation, rather than to raise revenue.

The tax will apply to land which is zoned suitable for residential development and is serviced, but has not been developed for housing. It will therefore target land in areas which are zoned residential or which are zoned for a mix of uses, including residential. I am not proposing to have any minimum size exclusion as I see the potential for the tax to incentivise the development of small sites in town centres.

In order to identify zoned land within the scope of the tax, maps will be prepared and published by Local Authorities in advance of the commencement of the measure. These maps will be updated on an annual basis.

The Minister for Housing has indicated that there will be a process established to enable any person to apply to their Local Authority to have the zoning status of their land amended.

This process will be aligned with normal local authority procedures, and each case will be considered on its merits in the context of proper planning and sustainable development.

An appropriate lead-in time for the general application of the Zoned Land Tax will be required following its introduction in the Finance Bill 2021. I am proposing a two-year lead-in time for land zoned before January 2022, and a three-year lead in time for land zoned after January 2022. This will also give scope to review the workings of the tax, to listen to stakeholders, and ensure it is both effective and equitable.

The tax will be based on the market value of the land and I have determined that the rate at the outset should be 3 per cent. This aligns with the starting point for the vacant site levy when it was first introduced.

I believe the introduction of this tax is a very important step forward in encouraging the release of land for building homes. Depending on its impact, I will be open to reviewing the rate in the future.

There will be a number of exclusions from the tax such as dwelling houses and their gardens, amenities and infrastructure. Other exemptions will be defined in the Finance Bill.

The tax will operate on a self-assessment basis and will be administered by the Revenue Commissioners.

Finally, it is worth noting that this tax will replace the vacant site levy when it comes into operation.

Help to Buy

Ensuring that people have access to home ownership in this country is an absolute priority for this government. Focussing directly on those trying to access the housing market, the Help-to-Buy scheme has been a significant support for first time buyers of new homes. For 2022, the scheme is being continued at the current rates.

Consistent with recent Tax Strategy Group recommendations, I am also announcing that a full review of the scheme will be carried out in the course of next year.

Pre-letting expenses for landlords

Also on housing, I propose to extend the relief for pre-letting expenses for landlords for a further three years. This will continue to encourage landlords in the residential rental sector to return empty properties to the market as quickly as possible.

Climate change

I will now turn to one of the most important issues of our time, climate change.

Future generations will not tolerate inaction from the leaders of today. But, by future generations, I do not just mean children yet to be born. Children, teenagers, and the younger adults of today demand action. They deserve action.

They are clear in their arguments and the science is unambiguous: the world is burning, and the only chance we have to control those fires is through coherent and effective policies. This is why carbon taxation is so important.

The Finance Act 2020 provided for annual increments in the carbon tax of €7.50 out to 2030. This provides a clear signal for producers and consumers in terms of the price of carbon.

Studies have shown that carbon taxation is likely to be the single most effective climate policy which can be pursued by Government; although it is not the only one and will not deliver the required emissions reductions on its own.

We have seen challenges around energy supply and prices across the globe in recent months. The government is conscious of how this will impact on our most vulnerable.

That is why new monies raised in this change will be invested in targeted social welfare initiatives to prevent fuel poverty and ensure a just transition. It is why the additional revenue from carbon tax will be used to invest in a socially progressive national retrofitting programme.

The 2019 Climate Action Plan recommended the development of “an enabling framework for micro-generation which tackles existing barriers and establishes suitable supports within relevant market segments”.

To that end, I am proposing a modest tax disregard in respect of personal income received by households who sell surplus electricity that they generate back to the grid.

Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT)

I made significant changes to the vehicle registration tax system in last year’s Budget to strengthen the environmental rationale of VRT in line with government commitments to radically reduce emissions from road transport.

The structure of new car sales for 2021 compared to 2020 is evidence of the success of this approach, with an increase in vehicles registered at the lower end of the VRT scale.

I am proposing further changes in this regard to strengthen this approach. From January 2022 a revised VRT table is being introduced. The 20 band table will remain with an uplift in rates, as follows:

  • 1 per cent increase for vehicles that fall between bands 9-12
  • 2 per cent increase for bands 13-15
  • 4 per cent increase for bands 16-20

In addition, to continue to incentivise the uptake of electric vehicles, I am extending the €5,000 relief for Battery Electric Vehicles to end 2023.

Accelerated Capital Allowances

Finance Act 2020 extended the Accelerated Capital Allowance scheme for Energy Efficient Equipment. In accordance with wider government policy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, I am providing that equipment directly operated by fossil fuels will no longer qualify.

The scheme seeks to support the transition to lower-emission fuels in the heavy-duty land transport sector. Therefore, I am extending the ACA scheme for Gas Vehicles and Refuelling Equipment for three years.

As a transport fuel, renewable hydrogen offers significantly higher carbon savings when compared to fossil fuels. I am also extending the scheme to include hydrogen powered vehicles and refuelling equipment. This policy is aligned with wider government policy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Agricultural reliefs

Ceann Comhairle, farming families have a central role to play in protecting the environment over the long-term. Supporting the next generation of farming families is essential for guaranteeing the long-term future of agriculture and the agri-business sector. They too will have an important role to play in the national recovery from the pandemic.

As such, I intend to extend the various farming stock relief measures.

General stock relief will continue to the end of 2024.

Stock relief for Young Trained Farmers and Farm Partnerships, and the Young Trained Farmer stamp duty relief will continue to the end of next year.

These measures, designed to support young farmers, are deemed to be a State aid by the EU, allowable under the Agriculture Block Exemption Regulation. The current exemption is scheduled to expire on the 31st of December 2022. Therefore, I can only extend all three reliefs until that date.

I have been advised by the Department of Agriculture that they are confident that reliefs of this nature will continue to be considered an acceptable form of State aid under the terms of any revised regulation. I am hopeful, therefore, that I will be able to provide for a further extension of this relief next year as well as the stock reliefs for young trained farmers and farm partnerships.

Independent brewers

The revised EU Alcohol Directive now permits the granting of up to 50 per cent excise relief to independent small producers of cider and other fermented drinks products.

I see this relief as having a similar positive effect as that provided for small independent producers of beer and have asked my officials to engage with the sector to allow for the implementation of this relief in next year’s Finance Bill.

Supporting business

Supporting entrepreneurs and the wider business community will be central to our broader national recovery. They are indeed the backbone of our domestic economy, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the country.

This is why I am implementing a package of measures to support our smaller businesses and entrepreneurs.

Employment Investment Incentive

The Employment Investment Incentive (EII) scheme has the potential to become a real driver of investment in early stage companies and high-potential start-ups. In recent years, positive changes have been made to the scheme but it has yet to reach its potential.

Today, I am announcing an extension of the scheme for a further three years and I am also bringing forward a number of important improvements, the effect of which will be to make the scheme more attractive to investors to the ultimate benefit of companies in their start-up years and to the economy through job creation.

More significantly, and following consultation with relevant stakeholders, I intend to open up the scheme to a wider range of investment funds and I am confident that this measure on its own will result in greater investment in early stage enterprises.

In addition, subject to certain conditions, I am relaxing the rules around the so called “capital redemption window” for investors. I am also removing the 30 per cent expenditure rule which is unduly restrictive in the context of the self-assessment principles that now apply to the relief.

Innovation Equity Fund

In last year’s Budget, I announced that the government would commit a €30 million investment through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to establish an innovation equity fund with a mandate to invest in domestic, high innovation enterprises.

Today, I can announce that the government intends to commit a further €30 million investment to this fund through Enterprise Ireland; this will be matched by €30 million from the European Investment Fund, subject to Board approval.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding currently being developed by all three parties, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund expects to participate with its €30 million as a co-investor, leading to potential investments of up to €90 million for predominantly seed stage Irish SMEs.

It is expected to be launched in early 2022 and will increase the availability of early stage funding for Irish SMEs. It will also be consistent with other priorities such as promoting regional development, supporting female entrepreneurship, and climate change initiatives.

Relief for start-up companies

Today I am announcing an extension of the Section 486C corporation tax relief for certain start-up companies to the end of 2026. Data shows that this relief continues to support employment and businesses in a cost-efficient manner. In view of the challenges companies currently face in utilising the relief, start-up companies will now be able to avail of the relief for up to five years, in place of the current three years.

These changes will provide greater certainty to recently established companies, and to those seeking to commence as we recover from the pandemic. Further detail can be found in the review of the relief, which is being published today.

Tax credit for digital gaming

As I announced during my Budget speech last year, I am introducing a new tax credit for the digital gaming sector. This sector has seen exponential global growth in the past decade. However, employment growth in the sector in Ireland has not matched this global trend.

The relief will support digital games development companies by providing a refundable corporation tax credit for expenditure incurred on the design, production and testing of a game. The relief will be available at a rate of 32 per cent, on eligible expenditure of up to a limit of €25 million per project.

There are also synergies with our established film and animation sectors that will support quality employment in creative and digital arts in Ireland.

Full details of the relief will be published as part of this year’s Finance Bill. As European State aid approval is required for the introduction of the credit, it will be introduced subject to a commencement order.

Tobacco

To support public health policy to reduce smoking in Irish society, I am also increasing excise duty on a pack of 20 cigarettes by 50 cents, with a pro-rata increase on other tobacco products. This will bring the price of cigarettes in the most popular price category to €15.

Extension of bank levy

Since its introduction in 2013, the bank levy has been extended on several occasions and currently applies to the end of this year. The annual yield of this levy has been approximately €150 million to-date.

I am extending the levy for a further year. However, as Ulster Bank and KBC are leaving the market in 2022, I intend to exclude them from the charge. In addition, I am proposing that the remaining banks will pay the same amount in 2022 as they did this year; this equates to approximately €87 million in total.

I have also instructed that the levy and its future be assessed over the course of the coming year.

Anti-tax avoidance directive

In accordance with our commitments to international tax reform, in Finance Bill 2021 we will complete our transposition of the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives.

I am providing for the introduction of a new Interest Limitation Ratio and new Anti-Reverse Hybrid rules, both of which have been developed over the year with the input of stakeholders through a series of public consultations.

Corporation tax

Ceann Comhairle, the government has taken the historic decision to join the global political agreement on the future of corporate taxation.

The importance of our 12.5 per cent rate is well known to the House. Budget speeches by my predecessors, indeed by myself, made the case for this rate. However, I strongly believe that our national interest is now best served by joining this agreement. It maintains our tax competitiveness and strengthens our position in the world. The agreement, which we shaped, is balanced and represents a fair compromise. While there will be a cost to the Exchequer, it provides long-term certainty for businesses and investors for the benefit of Irish jobs.

As a small open economy that depends on rules and order in global tax and trade, an agreement was in our interests.

The question of the rate was the biggest challenge for Ireland. So, we successfully made our case. Due to our efforts, the minimum effective rate was set at 15 per cent for large multinational companies. It could have been far higher. It could have been more uncertain. We avoided those risks.

This is why it is in our interest to be in.

When it comes into effect, Ireland will apply the new minimum effective rate of 15 per cent. This will still be less than many of our key competitors.

Importantly, Ireland will continue to offer the 12 ½ per cent rate for businesses with revenues less than €750 million. This means no change for one hundred and sixty thousand businesses employing one point eight million people.

We will remain an attractive location for investment and we will continue to play to our strengths, centred on a highly educated and dynamic workforce that has consistently delivered innovation and profitability over many decades to businesses that have made Ireland their home.

I know this was a major decision. But it is the right decision for Ireland, for our jobs, for our economy and for our ability to attract and keep investment in our country.

Commission on Taxation and Welfare

On the broader challenges associated with taxation into the future, last year I announced the establishment of an independent Commission on Taxation and Welfare.

The Commission was tasked with considering how best the tax and welfare systems can support economic activity and promote increased prosperity, while ensuring that there are sufficient resources available to meet the costs of the public services and supports over the medium to longer term. This work will be essential for putting our public finances on a sustainable basis over the coming years.

The Commission will have particular regard to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as long-term developments such as ageing demographics, the move to a low-carbon economy, and the rise of digital disruption and automation.

A public consultation will be launched over the coming weeks and will seek valuable input and feedback from all relevant parties to inform the Commission in completing this important work.

I look forward to considering its recommendations when they are published next summer.

Conclusion

I want to conclude by again paying tribute to the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, both seen and unseen, including those involved in the rollout of our vaccination programme. Without all of them we would not be where we are today, planning for the resumption of safer times.

For those whose jobs have not returned, let me again reiterate that this government stands with you.

For those concerned about the rising cost of living, this Budget will help you.

For those worried about whether they can own a home or afford their rent, this Budget will support you.

For businesses looking to the future, this Budget backs you.

That future, for individuals, for families, and for businesses, is based on secure public finances.

We make further progress to that goal in this Budget.

Over the past year and a half we made the right choices at the right times: let us now do that again.

I am an optimist by nature and believe that as we move out from under the dark cloud of the pandemic, there are truly exciting times ahead for this country and its people.

Yes, there are many challenges, many difficulties.

But, a good journey to a better Ireland is within our grasp for 2022 and beyond.

Budget 2022 sets the course for that journey.

With this, I commend this Budget to the House.

About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

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