Siptu calls for wealth tax
One of the country's biggest trade unions, Siptu, has called for a wealth tax as part of its campaign to abolish the Universal Social Charge.
The union urged a rewrite of the unpopular tax with the poorest workers being taken out of the net completely and the wealthiest bearing the brunt of new and increased levies.
Siptu said 400m euro should be raised in new and reformed wealth taxes and another 140m euro should be raised by imposing a 10% rate on anyone earning more than 100,000 euro.
It said this would cover more than half of the cost of scrapping the USC and introducing a Social Solidarity Contribution to collect tax progressively.
The union said the entire four billion euro raised in a year from the deeply unpopular tax should be used to improve health, childcare, education, housing, training and caring for the elderly.
Jack O'Connor, Siptu's general president, said: "Tax reform should be rendered close to cost neutral through the introduction of new taxes on capital and on the wealthy."
Siptu wants the lowest paid workers in the country - those earning the so-called living wage of up to 23,251 euro - taken out of the USC tax net altogether.
It said those on salaries of 30,000 to 100,000 should see a saving of 775 euro through tax reform.
As part of the proposals on wiping out the USC, Siptu said that as the economy recovers, twice as much of the money taken by tax collectors should go on public services than on tax cuts.
"Thereafter, the focus should be exclusively on improving public provision, with the ultimate objective of developing northern/central European levels of public services incrementally over time," Mr O'Connor said.
Siptu said this would mirror what happened since 2008 when successive governments drove through 30 billion euro of austerity.
Mr O'Connor lashed Finance Minister Michael Noonan's approach in the last budget and said two thirds of available resources in tax reliefs were directed on those earning in the middle to upper income brackets.
The USC was introduced in December 2010 as a temporary measure by the late finance minister Brian Lenihan to build a huge tax base from all workers.
It was cut last year to 1.5% on the first 12,012 euro; 3.5% on the next 5,564 euro; 7% on the next 52,468 euro and 8% o n the balance.
Siptu said 140m euro should be raised by adopting a new 10% rate for the big earners on 100,000 euro or more.
Costing its plans, the union said the Social Solidarity Contribution would incorporate tax credits costing 775m euro which would be offset by the wealth tax, 70m euro from a tax on online betting; 35m euro from more excise duty on tobacco; and reform of property and pensions taxes to raise 100m euro.
Outlining alternatives, the union said if the credits are not applied to people earning 75-100,000 euro it would cost less than 700m euro to scrap the USC while another 92.5m euro could be saved if the credit is not applied to workers on 60-75,000.