What's New

UK vote to leave European Union

The Taoiseach has today made a statement on the UK vote to leave the European Union, as has the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Both statements stress that the UK is not leaving the EU immediately and that arrangements, rights and facilities linked to EU membership still apply in full. A negotiation process will get underway and is expected to take a minimum of two years prior to a UK exit.

A contingency framework has been announced so that the Government and its departments can focus on key policy areas or issues to be addressed in any exit negotiations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has published an FAQ document in relation to Irish citizens resident in the UK, UK citizens resident in Ireland, citizenship, passports and the Common Travel Area.

The Department of Social Protection has published an FAQ document in relation to social security contributions and social welfare payments.

 

 

Know your rights: Cohabiting and social welfare payments

Question

I have applied for a means-tested Jobseeker’s Allowance but I was told that I’m not eligible because of my live-in partner’s earnings. We live together but we are not married and we split our expenses equally. Why is this?

Answer

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) treats married and unmarried couples in the same way when assessing entitlement to a means-tested social welfare payment. It assesses the total income of the household, rather than the circumstances of the individual claimant.

This means that if you are married, or are living with another person in an intimate and committed relationship, the means of your spouse or partner are also taken into account. This is the case even if only one of you is actually claiming a payment. The DSP uses detailed definitions and criteria to assess whether a couple are cohabiting and you can read these online at welfare.ie.

How the means of a couple are assessed differs slightly depending on the payment being applied for. For Blind Pension, State Pension (Non-Contributory) and Carer’s Allowance, the DSP adds all of your means together and then halves them to get the assessable means for each one of you. For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, and Farm Assist, the DSP adds all your combined means together and then assesses them against the maximum household payment for your circumstances. If your spouse or partner is getting a social welfare payment in their own right, your means are taken to be half of the total means of yourself and your spouse or partner.

Sometimes a certain amount of income, or income from particular sources, is not taken into account. This is called an income disregard. For example, a certain amount of income from employment can be disregarded.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.

Know your rights: Tax Appeals Commission

Question

What is the new Tax Appeals Commission?

Answer (June 2016)

The Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015  came into operation on 21 March 2016. This Act gives effect to a revised tax appeals process and established a new independent statutory Tax Appeals Commission (TAC), which replaces the former Office of the Appeal Commissioners.

The TAC adjudicates, hears and determines appeals against Revenue decisions concerning taxes and duties under the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015, the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as amended and other related legislation. There are currently two Appeal Commissioners, appointed by the Minister for Finance for a period of seven years.

The main change to the tax appeals process is the requirement that all appeals (other than customs duties and Registration Tax “first-stage” appeals) are now made directly to the TAC and not to Revenue in the first instance.

The Appeal Commissioners have sole responsibility for accepting or refusing appeals, although Revenue can raise objections to appeals. If both parties agree, the Appeal Commissioners can make determinations based on written submissions (rather than a full hearing). However, you can insist on a hearing if you wish.

By default, all hearings are held in public. However, you can request that a hearing (or part of a hearing) be held in private. To improve the transparency of the appeals process, the Appeal Commissioners are required to publish anonymised versions of all of their determinations. Another significant change is that appeals can no longer be re-heard before a Circuit Court Judge. You can appeal to the High Court on a point of law, but not in relation to the facts.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.

New TravelWise app

TravelWise is a new free smartphone app from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The app includes travel advice and consular information on 200 countries, including security, local laws, entry requirements, health and emergency contacts. All content, once downloaded, is available offline including key emergency contact details – without the need for a data connection abroad and without incurring roaming charges.

You can also opt to receive security alerts. Alerts will only be sent on major changes in the overall security status or in the event of a specific crisis or emergency.

You can use the app to register with the local Irish Embassy or Consulate. The Department can contact registered people during an unforeseen crisis such as a natural disaster or civil unrest in order to ensure you are safe, keep you informed of developments and provide assistance where necessary.

You can download the free TravelWise app on iOS and Android.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance 2016

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance helps you with the cost of clothing and other expenses for children in school.

To qualify you must be getting certain social welfare payments and your child/ren must be aged between 4 and 17 on or before 30 September 2016. If they are aged between 18 and 22 they must be in second-level education.

Many people will get an automatic payment from the Department of Social Protection. You will be informed by letter if you qualify for an automatic payment. If you do not get an automatic payment you must apply for the Allowance.

Letters will issue in the week ending 10 June informing families of their entitlement and notifying them of their expected payment. This payment will be made during the week ending 15 July.

Application forms are available online (pdf) and in all social welfare offices from 10 June. You can also request a form online, via SMS (text Form BTSCFA followed by the name and address to 51909) or by emailing the Department at BSCFA@welfare.ie.

Read more about the scheme on citizensinformation.ie.

Good luck to all Leaving and Junior certificate candidates

The written Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations start today, Wednesday 8 June 2016.  The examinations run until Thursday 23 June for Junior Certificate subjects and Friday 24 June for Leaving Certificate subjects. The written examinations in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme finish on Thursday 16 June. The results of the Leaving Certificate examinations will be available on Wednesday 17 August 2016. Results of the Junior Certificate will be available in mid-September 2016.

You can visit the State Examinations Commission for updates and information and to see the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate timetables.

 

 

Know your rights: Pregnant at work – health and safety leave

Question

I do night work regularly but I am expecting a baby in six months. Can I stop working at night while I am pregnant?

Answer (June 2016)

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, every employer is required to carry out a risk assessment for the workplace. This assessment should identify hazards in the workplace, assess the risks from such hazards and identify the steps to be taken to deal with any risks. Now that you are pregnant, your employer should carry out a separate risk assessment for you. If there are particular risks to you during your pregnancy, these should be either removed or you should be moved away from them.

If neither of these options is possible, you should be given health and safety leave from work, which may continue up the beginning of your maternity leave (under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004).

If a doctor certifies that night work is unsuitable for you during your pregnancy, you must be given alternative work or health and safety leave.

Time spent on health and safety leave is treated as though you have been in employment, and this time can be used to accumulate annual leave entitlement. You are not entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during health and safety leave. During health and safety leave, your employer must pay you your normal wages for the first 21 days (3 weeks), after which you may qualify for Health and Safety Benefit from the Department of Social Protection.

When you return to work after maternity leave, if there is any risk to you because you have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, that risk should be removed. If this is not possible, you should be moved to alternative work. If it is not possible for you to be assigned alternative work, you should be given health and safety leave. If night work is certified by a doctor as being unsuitable after the birth, alternative work should be provided. If alternative work cannot be provided, you should be given health and safety leave.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.