This is a positive Budget statement, with a focus on jobs and families. The reduction in the USC rates will benefit the lower and middle income earners most and will further incentivise people to work.
Tax reliefs rewarding entrepreneurship were welcome but the cap of €1 million will mean this new incentive may be of limited benefit to entrepreneurs. It is a pity that we didn’t go the extra mile and match the UK 10% CGT rate for entrepreneurs, instead reducing our rate to 20% from 33%.
There was no cut today in the top marginal tax rate, which remains at 52% for employees and 55% for the self-employed. The global tax environment is changing and the ability of groups to move profits to low tax jurisdictions will be limited in the future. Instead profits will be allocated on the basis of substance, a big part of which is employees. Our exceptionally high income tax rates make it difficult for us to attract talent to Ireland, which can seriously jeopardise the future attractiveness of our corporate tax regime.
Knowledge Development Box
The Knowledge Development Box (“KDB”) was well flagged and very welcome. A rate of 6.25% will now apply to profits arising from certain IP which are the result of R&D carried out in Ireland. It too hinges on the ability to retain and attract top talent to Ireland. High income tax rates don’t help in this regard.
However Ireland’s tax reputation is at a high point at the moment and when coupled with the promise of falling income tax rates, the KDB can be a serious part of our artillery in continuing to attract the level of overseas investment that has driven much of our growth in recent years. It will also significantly benefit local Irish businesses that are carrying on high value add innovative activities.
A key question is where the gap in tax revenues will be filled when the USC is eventually removed. While there is a commitment to freeze property prices for a period of time, in the long term it is very possible that wealth based taxes, such as the property tax, will make up a bigger chunk of the overall tax take.
Overall, while there was much by way of positive news in today’s Budget, there is also a sense of missed opportunity in terms of not pushing the boat out enough on entrepreneurship. We have done a huge amount, correctly, to make Ireland an attractive place for foreign investors. Today was an opportunity to do something for Irish entrepreneurship, one that unfortunately was missed.