Who will speak up for our emigrating taxpayers?Image

The revelation that half of those who have emigrated in recent years have actually have a had a job, and a third level qualification, is proof surely that those leaving our shores are not just those unable to find work here, but tens of thousands of people who fleeing the high taxes and cuts that will make them the burden of our economic recovery. In other words, while the ‘squeezed middle’ is taking the brunt of the measures being implemented to correct our public finances, those who might have joined such a demographic, or who are already in it, have decided instead to bale out  and leave the bare land to the so-called working poor. And to those relatively protected parts of our society, such as the public sector, the welfare system and, of course, the always generously looked after banks.

So no wonder Minister Leo Varadkar has spoken against such an injustice that is seeing our ‘best and brightest’ pay too much tax and be driven out of the country. Some relief should be given to stop this brain drain, he said, and while it was too early to introduce tax cuts now, it should be on the agenda later, particularly for income tax and the Universal Social Charge (USC). Varadkar’s comments come after junior finance minister Brian Hayes said that the Government simply cannot continue to ‘tax the hell’ out of people.

Some see these comments as a signal of Fine Gael putting down a marker to Labour not to push again for tax increases, especially if the country exits the bailout successfully. Perhaps. But it’s not much reassurance given all the stealth taxes and charges that the public has already endured. The reality is that Labour has already got its way in Government, in securing a budget adjustment of less than 3.1bn and in preventing the big cuts that the Troika has demanded. So there is little chance of any tax relief in the near future.

After all, Minister Joan Burton continues to dither over a massive welfare spend, with its notorious ‘welfare traps’ which are a complete disincentive to work. Her budget- which is one third of all Government spending – is supposed to be reduced by 440 m, but nothing like this appears to be in prospect. And yet Burton continues to enjoy an inexplicable popularity with a shallow media otherwise infatuated by her leadership intrigue with Eamon Gilmore.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, tax payers continue to suffer as they pay for her dithering and her indulgence of a welfare system that she has stated is an crucial stimulus to the local economy. No wonder small businesses despair of her indolence and of the chance to create real jobs. And no wonder people are emigrating, rather than pay for all this, and for a public sector which although it has endured some cuts, has also been protected from anything like the real pain that has been visited on the private sector. But that’s modern Ireland: there is a leniency for the banks, and for those on higher public sector salaries and for those on long term welfare, and the suckers in the middle have to pay for it. Fair?    Image

‘Equality and fairness are important’ said Varadkar (above) ‘but we must not push our best talent out of Ireland.’ Oh, but we are. Highly qualified younger workers are going to Canada, the US and Australia where, as the Minister said, they can have ‘a better lifestyle, higher pay and lower taxes’ Not only has the economic crisis reduced salaries, but workers are being moved into the higher rate of tax – at 52pc – when they are earning average wages.

But at least Varadkar addressed this injustice, since nobody else is. We had high hopes that FG’s Five a Side group would speak out more forcefully for our hard-pressed taxpayers, or that the newly created Reform Alliance would, but they seem, for the moment, to be preoccupied with speaking rights in the Dail: although Denis Naughten TD did put in a forceful performance on RTE’s Prime Time about supporting small businesses in rural Ireland. There is certainly a political gap in the market, as opinion polls show. Michael McDowell seems to have squandered his considerable energies on the Seanad debate but if that kind of fearless and outspoken case could be made for the squeezed middle, then something might be done. Not for nothing does the UK have a thriving and dedicated Taxpayers Alliance. Otherwise, with a Coalition Government preoccupied with stability and consensus, the easy option will always be keep taxes high rather than make the substantial cuts that would bring fairness back to Ireland. And stop our best and brightest from leaving.