Dáil Éireann - Volume 543 - 06 November, 2001

Written Answers. - Tax Reliefs.

312. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has to give an additional allowance to either parents or siblings caring for an individual with an intellectual disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26158/01]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): The current tax system has a number of personal income tax allowances and credits which are related to the care of incapacitated or disabled individuals. These are the incapacitated child allowance, the dependent relative allowance, the tax allowance for the employment of a carer, medical expenses relief, covenant relief and the home carer's allowance.

The incapacitated child allowance can be claimed by a parent-guardian for a child who is permanently incapacitated. It amounts to a tax credit in a full year of £320, 408. Where more than one child is permanently incapacitated, an allowance may be claimed for each child.

The dependent relative allowance, now a tax credit, is granted to an individual who maintains at his or her expense, a relative of the claimant, or of the claimant's spouse, incapacitated by old age or infirmity from maintaining himself or herself, the widowed father or widowed mother of the claimant or of the claimant's spouse, whether [526] incapacitated or not, or a son or daughter of the claimant who resides with the claimant and on whose services the claimant, by reason of old age or infirmity, is compelled to depend.

The employment of a carer allowance may be claimed for employing a carer for an incapacitated person and applies at the taxpayer's marginal tax rate for expenses up to £10,000, 12,700, per annum. Since the 1999 Finance Act, the allowance is now available to all family members who employ a carer in respect of a totally incapacitated person. This means that a number of family members can now share the cost of employing a carer and share the allowances between them subject to the overall ceiling of £10,000, 12,700, in any one year.

Medical expenses relief is available for unreimbursed medical expenses and is of particular benefit to those with regular medical expenses and is available to those individuals who incur expenses of more than £100, 127, per annum or for families who incur expenses of more than £200, 254, per annum provided these expenses are not reimbursed by any other agency, health board, insurance company, etc. There is no upper limit on what can be claimed and the relief is also available at the taxpayer's marginal rate of tax. A taxpayer can claim medical relief on behalf of himself-herself, his-her spouse and children and his-her dependant relatives. The scope of the relief was widened in the Finance Act, 2001, to cover the cost of educational and psychological assessments, speech and language therapy services for children and routine maternity care.

Income tax relief at the marginal rate is also available for those who covenant income to certain individuals. Unrestricted tax relief can be claimed on covenants in favour of permanently incapacitated minors other than from parents to their own minor incapacitated children. Unrestricted tax relief can be claimed on covenants in favour of permanently incapacitated adults.

The home carer's allowance of £3,000, 3,810, per annum is available to those spouses of married one income families, where one of the spouses works in the home caring for children, the aged or incapacitated persons. It may be claimed by a married couple who are jointly assessed to tax. For the purposes of the allowance, an incapacitated person is a person who is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity.

In addition to the tax allowances-credits there are two payments made by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in respect of carers.

The carer's allowance payment from the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs is a means tested payment for carers on low incomes who look after certain people who need full-time care and attention. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that there has been a number of improvements in the carer's allowance scheme in recent years. These include: a substantial easing of the means test such that [527] the first £125, 159, of weekly income in the case of a single person, or £250, 317, in the case of a couple, is now disregarded in assessing entitlement; the extension of the free schemes to recipients of the carer's allowance; and the introduction and subsequent increase of the annual respite care grant which now stands at £400, 508, with two grants payable to any carer looking after more than one person.

A new carer's benefit scheme was introduced in 2000. This scheme enables employees to give up work temporarily to care full time while still retaining their employment rights. This new benefit is payable at a rate of £96.50, 123, per week for up to 15 months and, as an insurance-based scheme, eligibility is based on a person's PRSI contributions record rather than means.

I have no plans to introduce any new additional tax allowances as suggested by the Deputy.