Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 06 October, 1999

Written Answers. - Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

68. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason the working group chaired by his Department to examine the treatment of married, cohabiting and one parent families under the tax and social welfare codes failed to produce a report with recommendations, contrary to its terms of reference; and the steps, if any, he proposes to take in this regard. [18941/99]

73. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will increase the qualified adult allowance to 70 per cent of the personal rate in line with a recent ESRI analysis on equivalence scales and as a contribution to promoting social inclusion in the context of the talks on a successor agreement to Partnership 2000. [18880/99]

74. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he has drawn up a set of proposals to implement any of the conclusions of the report of the working group examining the treatment of married, cohabiting and one parent families under the tax and social welfare codes. [18881/99]

87. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans, if any, he has to increase the allowance for the qualified adult to over 70 per cent of the main payment; his views on whether payment to the qualified adult is grossly inadequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18865/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 73, 74 and 87 together.

The report of the working group examining the treatment of married, cohabiting and one-parent [1281] families under the tax and social welfare codes was published in August this year. The group was chaired by my Department and comprised representatives from the Department of Finance, Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Revenue Commissioners, the Combat Poverty Agency and the National social Service Board. The issues examined by the group are wide ranging and complex. They included: the current operation and interaction of the tax and welfare systems with regard to different types of families; options in relation to restructuring the tax system so as to redirect resources to child income support; options in relation to restructuring the social welfare system to provide for a more individualised systems; the possibility of increasing the qualified adult allowance payable under the social welfare code; the treatment of cohabiting couples in the tax code in relation to income and capital taxation; the financial disincentives for recipients of the one-parent family payment to marry or cohabit; and the operation of the community employment scheme in relation to recipients of the one-parent family payment.

Taking into account the diversity and complexity of the issues examined, it is understandable that it was not possible for the group to reach definitive agreement on the future direction of policy on all of these areas. There is, perhaps, no right answer to the options considered. The report of the group does, however, provide considerable analyses on a range of possible options with regard to the issues it examined and certain policy directions were suggested. The report is a very useful contribution to the debate on the structure and objectives of the tax and social welfare systems and how these are adapting to changes taking place in Irish society. The report builds on previous work in this area, including the work of the expert working group on the integration of the tax and social welfare systems and the report of the Commission on the Family. The options and analyses contained in the report will now be considered further both by the Government and hopefully also by others concerned with the policy issues it examines.

Issues considered by the group in relation to the position of lone parents will be considered further as part of an interdepartmental review of the one-parent family payment under the Department's expenditure review programme. It is hoped to complete this review by early 2000.

With regard to the question of the qualified adult allowance, the commission on social welfare recommended that the appropriate level at which the allowance should be paid was 60 per cent of the personal rate. Research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute for the working group suggested that 70 per cent of the personal rate would be a more appropriate level for this allowance. This analysis will be considered further in a budgetary context.