THE countryâ€™s most senior politicians have claimed more than €800,000 over the past seven years through a controversial tax write-off to maintain a second home in Dublin.
The government ministers have been allowed to write off more than €100,000-a-year from what is known as the ‘dual abode allowanceâ€™.
The tax perk applies to ministers, ministers of state, or the Attorney General if they live outside Dublin and rent or own a second home in the capital.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny had promised to end the scheme while in opposition but the allowance was retained and remains in place.
The perk is still being used seven years after Fine Gael took power and, according to the latest full year figures, is now being claimed by sixteen different politicians.
In 2016, the total value of claims came to just over €120,000 which had a cost to the Exchequer of more than €48,000, according to Revenue figures.
Only partial figures are available for last year and around €48,000 was claimed with a tax loss of more than €19,000.
Overall, the tax lost on the €809,000 that has been claimed for by the politicians was €328,000 based on the higher tax band of 41, and more recently 40, percent.
Itâ€™s understood the allowance is mainly used currently by politicians to claim a tax write-off against the cost of renting a second property in Dublin.
However, itâ€™s also open to them to claim against the cost of purchasing a property or costs involved in staying in a hotel or guesthouse while in the city for work.
When claims for that type of overnight accommodation are made, the money can be used to offset costs including laundry.
If the politician chooses to buy a property, the relief can be claimed against the mortgage and interest repayments, along with legal and auctioneering fees.
The government did examine the possibility of abolishing the dual abode allowance back in 2012.
However, one proposed system that would have directly reimbursed ministers for the cost of overnights in Dublin would have ended up costing the taxpayer more and the idea was quietly dropped.
The Revenue Commissioners said they would not detail how many claims had been made in 2017 to protect “confidential taxpayer information” and would only confirm there had been fewer than ten.
They said: “There is a possibility of further claims for 2017 being received; therefore, this should be considered a provisional figure.”
In a statement, the Revenue Commissioners said their responsibility was for the “fair and efficient administration of tax legislation”.
Asked whether it was fair that a perk like this was available only to a select group of people, they said: “Matters of tax policy are not within Revenueâ€™s remit. Revenueâ€™s responsibility is for the fair and efficient administration of the tax legislation that is in place. Questions on tax policy matters are proper to the Minister for Finance, the Department of Finance and the Government.”
In a statement, the Department of Public Expenditure said they did not collect data on the dual abode allowance and it was a matter for individual politicians on whether they claimed it or not.
They said: “[The] individual may, by way of written claim to Revenue, claim a tax deduction in respect of the expenses incurred in maintaining a second residence where s/he is obliged to so because of her/his duties.
“The abolition of the dual abode allowance was not part of the Programme for a Partnership Government nor was it part of the Programme for Government … [from] 2011 to 2016. No policy changes are envisaged for the existing arrangements.”