An Income Tax proposal to facilitate the introduction of Basic Income in Ireland
The introduction a universal basic income payment has been proposed by many, many people as one of the key elements in our vision for a better society. That vision sees a society in which every citizen has access to four basic resources provided by the State – health services, education, housing and income. The first three on on everyone’s radar – but a universal basic income? Surely it would be too expensive? How can we possibly afford to pay every citizen €200 per week unconditionally? Too good to be true?
All over the world, the idea of a universal payment or State dividend is gaining ground. Pilot schemes have been implemented. Trials in various countries are ongoing. Our friends in Social Justice Ireland held a conference and published “Radical Utopia or Practical Solution” and concluded that a partial universal basic income of €150 per week could be funded by the application of a flat 40% tax rate. Individuals and families would still qualify for additional means-tested State supports – but that first €150 per week would be given to everyone, unconditionally. The societal benefits would be huge – people being able to choose a better, more suitable way of life to them at that time, always within the security of always having a basic weekly income.
I am a passionate supporter of Basic Income. I believe that it offers a major positive reform of the State’s support to its citizens. Basic Income is not a wonder fix – the State must provide appropriate educational, health and housing services as well as the financial security of the Basic Income in order to allow its citizens to live and thrive in a more egalitarian society in a more respectful and a more contented way. Basic Income offers a higher level of equality in the provision of financial support to all its citizens. The resulting reduction in poverty levels would be hugely welcomed and it would lead to significant overall improvements in health and well-being.
But is it affordable?
Our income tax system is complicated and full of reliefs and allowances that benefit the higher-earners. But what if we reform our income tax system, make it more transparent, fair and re-distributive? Can we possibly offer real income increases to those on low and average incomes whilst ensuring that everyone pays their fair share? With the help of colleagues, my proposal aims to achieve the financial and administrative feasibility for the introduction of a Basic Income of €200 per week to every adult in Ireland. Older persons would get more – a Universal State Pension equal to the current Contributory State Pension. It considers how to implement it – at no additional administrative cost to the State or employer – and it considers the transition from where we are now to where we want to get to.
Universal Basic Income is not a policy of the Social Democrats. However, the matter is being reviewed and I hope it will be considered by the party further. I very much hope to be able to help everyone to consider this vision for Ireland with the confidence that a Basic Income in Ireland is affordable.