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Know Your Rights: Home Renovation Incentive

Question

I am planning to extend my home. How can I claim the Home Renovation Incentive?

Answer (November 2017)

The Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme enables homeowners or landlords to claim tax relief on repairs, renovations or improvement work that is carried out on their main home or rental property by tax-compliant contractors and that is subject to 13.5% VAT. It is also available to local authority tenants who have written consent from the local authority to carry out the works.

HRI is paid as a tax credit at 13.5% of qualifying expenditure, which can be set against your income tax over 2 years. You must be paying income tax to avail of HRI. You must also be up to date with your Local Property Tax (LPT) obligations.

Your contractor must be registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) in Ireland and be tax compliant. They also have to register the work on the HRI online administration system. If you use several contractors, such as a builder, a plumber and an electrician, you can combine the cost of the works to make up the minimum qualifying expenditure of €5,000 including VAT at 13.5%.

Repair, renovation or improvement work subject to VAT at 13.5% all qualify for the HRI, including extensions and attic conversions; supply and fitting of kitchens, bathrooms and built-in wardrobes; fitting of windows; plumbing, tiling, rewiring and plastering. Work subject to VAT at 23% is not covered. Neither are items such as furniture, white goods or carpets.

The work must be done and paid for by 31 December 2018. In general, the credit is paid over the 2 years following the year in which the work is done and paid for.

After work starts you should log in to HRI online to check that your contractor(s) have entered details of the work – if they have not, you will not be able to claim the credit. Once the work has been completed, you can claim the HRI credit. You access the HRI online system through Revenue’s myAccount service or through the Revenue Online Service (ROS) if you are registered for ROS.

There is detailed information about HRI on revenue.ie.

 

Know Your Rights: Accessing healthcare abroad

Question

There is a long wait for a medical procedure that I need. Can I get my medical costs refunded if I have the procedure done in another European country?

Answer (December 2017)

If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA). You will be repaid the cost if you meet the requirements.

This is provided for by the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive. The Directive covers services that are publicly funded and available in Ireland. These include acute hospital services and community-based outpatient care. Other services covered include physiotherapy, ophthalmic, psychology, disability and mental health services. Occupational therapy services and dental and orthodontic services are also covered, but with some exceptions. The Directive doesn’t cover treatments that qualify for the Treatment Abroad Scheme (in general, treatments that are not available in Ireland).

You must be referred to the health service abroad in the same way that you would be referred to public health services in Ireland. This referral may be by your GP (family doctor) or public hospital consultant, for example. They may also be able to tell you whether the service you require is covered by the Directive. You can also check with the National Contact Point (details below).

If the treatment involves an overnight stay in hospital, it will need to be authorised in advance by the Health Service Executive (HSE). For other treatments, you should check whether prior authorisation is required. You pay the costs of treatment and then apply for a refund when you return to Ireland. The amount repaid is either the amount that the treatment would cost in Ireland, or the cost of your treatment abroad, if that is less. It does not include other costs such as travel. The HSE has published refund amounts for different treatments. To get a refund of treatment costs, you and your healthcare provider abroad must complete a HSE form. You then submit it with the healthcare provider invoice and receipt. The HSE provides an invoice format that it recommends using for the invoice to make sure it includes all the required details.

To find out more, contact the National Contact Point: phone (056) 778 4546 or email crossborderdirective@hse.ie.

Know Your Rights: Income tax bands and rates

Question

I’m a PAYE worker. What income tax will I pay in 2018?

Answer (December 2017)

Changes to income tax bands were announced as part of Budget 2018. The amount of tax that you have to pay depends on your personal circumstances.

Tax is charged as a percentage of your income. The percentage that you pay depends on the amount of your income.

The first part of your income, up to a certain amount, is taxed at 20%. This is known as the standard rate of tax and the amount that it applies to is known as the standard rate tax band.

The remainder of your income is taxed at the higher rate of tax, which is 40%. The amount that you can earn before you start to pay the higher rate of tax is known as your standard rate cut-off point.

For 2018 the standard rate of tax remains at 20%, but the standard rate tax bands have been increased as follows:

2018 € 2017 €
Single person 34,550 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

33,800 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

Married couple/civil partners, one income 43,550 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

42,800 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

Married couple/civil partners, two incomes Up to 69,100 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

Up to 67,600 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

One-parent family 38,550 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

37,800 @ 20%

Balance @ 40%

There is a range of income tax reliefs available, which can reduce the amount of tax that you have to pay.

Know Your Rights: Prescription charges

Question

I have a medical card but I seem to be paying more than the monthly cap for prescription charges for my family. Why would this happen and how can I get a refund?

Answer (December 2017)

If you have a medical card, there is a charge for each prescription item you receive. From 1 January 2018, the prescription charge is reduced from €2.50 to €2.00 per item, up to a maximum of €20 per month per person or family (previously, the maximum was €25 per month).

Usually your pharmacy keeps records of how much you have paid in prescription charges and makes sure that you do not pay more than the limit each month. However, you may use different pharmacies in the same month, or your family members may not be set up as a family group, and you may end up paying more than the maximum.

If this happens, the Health Service Executive (HSE) will issue a refund without the need for you to apply for it. This is done on the basis of the information received from pharmacies.

You can set up your family as a family group on medicalcard.ie and print off a family certificate to give to your pharmacist. This will show all of the members of your family so that your pharmacy will not collect charges above the monthly limit. Your family is defined as you, your spouse or partner, any children under 16 years of age and any children between 16 and 21 years of age who are in full-time education.

If you do not have access to the internet, you can ask your Local Health Office to help with setting up a family group. You can also call the HSE on 1890 252 919 or ask your local pharmacist, who may be able to help you.

Know Your Rights: Consumer rights during sales

Question

What are my consumer rights when I buy something in the sales? Can I return sales items?

Answer (December 2017)

Your consumer rights during a sale are exactly the same as at any other time of the year. Your rights do not change just because you bought the item in a sale.

Goods should be of merchantable quality, fit for their intended purpose and as described. If they are not, you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.

If you are entitled to a refund because there is a fault with goods that you bought at full price, you should be refunded the amount you paid even if they are now on sale at a reduced price.

Shop notices such as “No Refunds” or “No Exchanges” do not limit your rights, if you have a complaint about faulty items. Some shops display these notices, particularly during the sales, but this does not take away your rights under consumer protection law if the goods are faulty.

However, you are not entitled to a refund because you change your mind about something you have bought in a shop, whether this is during the sales or at any other time of the year. Many shops do allow you to exchange goods that you have had second thoughts about, but this is at their discretion. It is a good idea to check the shop’s refund policy before buying anything.

If you buy goods at full price but change your mind about them, and they are now on sale at a lower price, you may only be offered the reduced amount (if the shop is willing to offer a refund).

You should always keep your receipts as proof of purchase and the price paid. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the shop receipt. You could show your credit or debit card statement (if you used one) or other documentation that proves it was purchased.

For more information, visit the website of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission at ccpc.ie.

Rent Pressure Zones: information campaign

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has launched an education and awareness social media campaign to raise awareness of rent setting and reviewing in Rent Pressure Zones. This includes two new video ads, one for tenants and one for landlords.

Tenants and landlords can use the RTB’s Rent Pressure Zone calculator to check that rents are being charged in line with the law.

Read more about Rent Pressure Zones on rtb.ie and in our document on rent increases.