Taxing times for Ireland’s women and mothers
You’re a 35-year-old married woman. Having bought a home five years ago with your husband, you inadvertently ended up taking on the biggest loan of your life at the very apex of the property boom.
Subsequently you’re waist-deep in negative equity with a house that’s only worth half what you both borrowed. You also paid a wallop load of stamp duty for that same moneypit — meaning a hefty bill of €35,000.
Mortgage interest rates have accelerated relentlessly since, your salary has been repeatedly chopped by an employer hellbent on cutting costs and every December there seems to be a new form of tax to pay out; the latest being property tax. A property tax on top of all that stamp duty and negative equity.
There’s no such thing as a lifestyle now. Boutiques are for window-shopping, the wine aisle at the local discount supermarket is the heart of your Saturday night. You stayed in rain-sodden Ireland during your ‘holidays’ last year.
But now you’re pregnant. Delightedly pregnant.
Your employer doesn’t pay a maternity benefit top-up so you knew all along it would be tight managing on the €260 a week paid by the Government.
The mortgage will swallow the bulk of that handout but hey, it could get a whole lot worse when you have to go back to work. Finding the money for childcare? You can’t let yourself think about it. You’re refusing to think about it.
Stay at home? You wish. It’s the downturn, dummy. You’re lucky to be working every hour God sends to fund your negative equity mortgage.
Being a full-time mum isn’t an option for you as your hangover from the Celtic Tiger, your noose of a mortgage, will have you working a five-day week until you’re 65.
Sometimes you see those pension bank ads, the ones with the impossibly tanned and loved-up young couples hugging and kissing each other, and you laugh out loud.
You know, the ones warning you to save for your retirement.
Thanks to that very same bank you had to halt paying pension AVCs two years ago as your mortgage repayments had jumped to 6%.
But sure, such is life. You’ve got your baby to look forward to.
But now, after last week, even procreation is taxed in this country.
Despite the fact policymakers are pulling their hair out worrying how the State will fund a greying population in 30 years’ time, there’s now a new tax on women having babies.
More tax to be spent on the financial and political mess that is the HSE, to pay public sector increments, severance packages, to pay for bankers’ pensions, for Bertie’s pension and Brian Cowen’s pension. Christ, we’re even paying the bondholders’ pensions!
Last week, the finance minister announced that maternity benefit is to be taxed for the first time. He also clawed back another €10 of the €140 you were expecting in the children’s allowance.
This means that the measly €260 a week you will get from the Government when you go on maternity leave will now be taxed. It also means you have another €10 less a month to help pay childcare bills, and feed and clothe your baby.
You had to try and force yourself to stop thinking again last night, to stop totting up imaginary sums at 3am. You’re refusing to think about it. You can’t. You can only go week to week.
© This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, December 08, 2012