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BUDGET 2012: CHILD BENEFIT

Families with three or more children can expect to have their child benefit payments curtailed in this week’s Budget, which will also see a rise in student registration fees, according to The Sunday Business Post.

Depending on which newspaper you read, either the social protection minister Joan Burton and/or public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin argued against an across-the-board cut in the €2.5 billion a year child benefit bill. In this he, she or they was/were wary of a backlash by backbench Labour TDs, who threatened further defections if a universal cut was introduced.

The Sunday Times reports Howlin was the main protagonist applying the pressure and the newspaper details in minutiae how the decision was made on Friday following a four-hour-long meeting of the economic management council involving Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and Michael Noonan.

The failure to get a universal cut over the line will translate to only half of the projected €110m savings a universal cut would have meant next year.

However, according to The Sunday Business Post, Burton’s department will not be able to make up the shortfall through her plan to force employers to pay more for employees’ sick leave. In the political horse-trading, this proposal will gather dust on a shelf as a result of Fine Gael opposition to it.

There will be no return to full college fees but the student registration charge will increase by €250 a year over the next four years, bringing it to €3,000 by 2015. In addition, postgraduate grants will be withdrawn in favour of a new student loan scheme.

In other tax-related measures, the Government is also expected to confirm its much-vaunted hike in the higher Vat rate by 2% to 23% but there will be no increases in excise duty on alcohol. However, below-cost selling of alcohol will be banned under forthcoming legislation.

There will be no increase in income tax but PRSI could be extended to rental income, dividends and investments.

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