Plans to axe flat rate expenses 'unnecessary worry to people', says Varadkar

By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to criticise his own Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in the Dail for causing “unnecessary worry to people” over plans to axe flat rate expenses.

Mr Varadkar said he was “not happy” about how this issue arose in recent days, but insisted no government decision has yet been taken.

The plan, which would have seen expenses to tradespeople and technicians hit from January 1 next, has been postponed by Mr Donohoe for 12 months amid mounting political controversy.

“This is a review being carried out by Revenue, no government decision has yet been taken. I am not happy as to how this has transpired in recent days as it has caused enormous unnecessary concern for people,” he told the Dail.

“It also appears that this is something that Government is pushing but it isn't, it is coming from the Revenue Commissioners. So no change will be implemented before January 1 2020 if at all and I will ensure they are politically proofed,” he said.

But Mr Varadkar said a review of expenses is merited as many anomalies within the system currently exist.

Fianna Fail has said it was “caught by surprise” by Government plans to axe flat rate expenses for tens of thousands of workers on January 1st.

The party's finance spokesman Michael McGrath made clear that despite several weeks of Confidence and Supply talks, this issue was never raised by Mr Donohoe and it is a “cause of concern.”

He insisted the issue will be raised again as talks aimed at extending the life of the minority government continue.

“This is an issue I raised with the minister last night during the report stage on the finance bill. The minister cannot have it both ways. He can't say this is entirely a matter for Revenue but then when the political heat comes on it is postponed for a year. That to me looks like a political decision,” he said.

The postponement does allow some breathing space, but there was no consultation whatsoever on this issue. It could have eroded any gain to workers from Budget 2019.

"It is a source of concern, it is not something we were aware of in advance. There are unanswered questions. It will be discussed but we have laid out our concerns, what we have to make sure is that workers are treated fairly,” he said.

Mr McGrath also said the tax commitments given by the Taoiseach at last weekend's Fine Gael Ard Fheis as ridiculous given that we are on the cusp of Brexit.

He said he did not think people could not believe a word from Fine Gael regarding tax promises, as, he said, only a few years ago Leo Varadkar was walking around with a placard favouring the abolition of the USC.

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