Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999

Written Answers. - Social Insurance.

418. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he has been approached in relation to a submission by the ESB Meter Readers' Association with a view to having the PRSI rate for contract meter readers changed from class S to class A; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9682/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Contract meter readers engaged by the ESB have been considered to be self employed persons for social insurance purposes for over 30 years. The insurability of such workers has been examined on various occasions in the intervening years and successive decisions by deciding officers of my Department and, where appropriate, the social welfare appeals office have maintained this position. Accordingly, contract meter readers pay PRSI as self employed persons – PRSI Class S. However, the relevant meter readers are treated as employees subject to PAYE (Schedule E) for tax purposes.

A submission was received from the ESB Meter Readers' Association last February seeking the reclassification, for social insurance purposes, of contract meter readers from PRSI Class S to PRSI Class A, the PRSI class applicable to employees. I met, at their request, with a delegation from the ESB Meter Readers' Association and the Amalgamated Transport and General Worker's Union – AT&GWU – on 3 March last to discuss the matter. Members of the Association are members of the AT&GWU. At that meeting, the association-union indicated that they wished to retain their current status as self employed contributors (PRSI Class S) but wished to be treated for income tax purposes as self employed – Schedule D – taxpayers.

I advised the association-union that the income tax status of meter readers was a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and should be taken up [677] with that body. The association was also advised that if it wished to have the social insurance position of meter readers re-examined it could submit a number of test cases to scope section in my Department for formal decisions on the matter.

I understand that the association/union is now preparing test cases for submission to both the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. When these cases are received by my Department, they will be examined by a deciding officer and a formal decision on the insurability of the employment or self employment will issue. In the event of dissatisfaction with any decision there is also a right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.