Know Your Rights: Treatment Abroad Scheme


I know that medical treatments available in Ireland can be accessed in other EU countries instead. What if I need a treatment that is not available in Ireland?

Answer (January 2018)

If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA) and be repaid the cost under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

If you are a public patient and need treatment that is not available to you in Ireland, you may be able to use the Treatment Abroad Scheme to get the treatment in another country in the EEA, or in Switzerland. The Scheme may provide help with your travel fare and, in some cases, the fare for a travelling companion.

You must be referred for treatment abroad by an Irish-based consultant who is treating you as a public patient. You cannot refer yourself or be referred by a GP.

You and the consultant complete an application form and include a copy of your referral letter. Your application must be approved by the Health Service Executive (HSE) before you travel or start treatment abroad. You usually get a decision on your application within 15 to 20 working days.

If your application is approved, the HSE will issue a form called E112. This authorises treatment abroad so that you do not have to make any payment to the healthcare provider. The treatment you have abroad must be in public healthcare under a registered medical practitioner. It must be in a recognised hospital or other institution that accepts the form E112. If you don’t have the form when you attend at your appointment, you may be charged and not be refunded. Any treatments or consultations that are not pre-approved will not be covered.

The Ombudsman has produced a report that suggests improvements to the application and appeals process. It recommends that, by the end of February 2018,  the HSE produce a plan and schedule for making the suggested changes.

To apply for the scheme, contact the Treatment Abroad Scheme Office for an application form. You can get the contact details for your area by calling the HSE Infoline on the Callsave number 1850 24 1850 or online at

Know Your Rights: Maternity leave


I recently started working in a new job on a part-time basis. I have just learned that I am pregnant – will I be entitled to maternity leave?

Answer (January 2018)

If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment applies to all female employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours you work per week. You are also entitled to additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work, including maternity leave.

You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Your entitlement to pay and superannuation (pension payments) during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) if you have enough PRSI contributions. However an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.

If you have a dispute with your employer about maternity leave or if you have been dismissed due to a matter connected with your pregnancy or for claiming your rights under maternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within six months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on The time limit may be extended for up to a further six months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.

You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your baby’s due date. Apply to the Maternity Benefit Section of the DEASP.

Know Your Rights: Home Renovation Incentive


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


Know Your Rights: Accessing healthcare abroad


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

Know Your Rights: Income tax bands and rates


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


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 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


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

Know Your Rights: Online shopping and import charges // Siopadóireacht ar-llíne agus táillí iompórtála


I want to do some of my Christmas shopping on American websites. What are the rules about VAT and customs duties when shopping outside the EU?

Answer (October 2017)

You are importing goods if you buy goods from abroad online or from a mail order catalogue, or if you get goods that are sent as a gift from abroad. In general, when goods are imported into Ireland from a country outside of the EU, they become liable to import charges. These include VAT, customs duty and excise or other duties where relevant. In some cases, you can get relief from import charges.

If someone sends you a gift from outside the EU, and it is valued at under €45, you do not have to pay customs duty or VAT. To qualify for this relief, the gift must be of an occasional nature and sent from one private individual to another.

You can buy some goods from outside the EU up to a value of €22 without paying VAT. The value is calculated on the full value of the item, plus postage and duties. This is also the value that is used to calculate VAT, if it is payable.

If you buy goods from outside the EU valued at more than €150, you will have to pay customs duty as well. Customs duty is normally calculated as a percentage of the full value of the goods including the cost of postage, packaging and insurance.

VAT, customs duty and excise duty are always charged on excisable products (such as alcohol, tobacco and perfume) from outside the EU, whatever their value.

All packages received from outside of the EU require a customs declaration, which is usually completed by the sender. The declaration should include a description of the goods, the value and whether they are gifts or commercial items. Some websites offer to undervalue your goods to avoid import charges. This is illegal. You, as the importer of the goods, are responsible for ensuring that the information provided is accurate and that all duties and taxes are paid. Some websites may also promise delivery from within the EU, which would eliminate any import charges, but are in fact shipping their products from outside the EU. If this is the case, you are liable to duties and VAT.


Ba mhaith liom cuid de mo shiopadóireacht Nollag a dhéanamh ar láithreáin ghréasáin Mheiriceánacha. Cad iad na rialacha maidir CBL agus dleachtanna custaim a bhaineann le siopadóireacht lasmuigh den AE?


Tá tú ag iompórtáil earraí má cheannaíonn tú earraí ó thar lear ar líne nó ó chatalóg phostdíola, nó má fhaigheann tú earraí a sheoltear mar bhronntanas ó thar lear. Go ginearálta, nuair a iompórtáiltear earraí go Éirinn ó thír lasmuigh den AE, bíonn táillí iompórtala dlite. Áirítear leis seo CBL, dleachtanna custaim agus máil nó dleachtanna eile nuair is cuí. I roinnt cásanna, is féidir leat faoiseamh a fháil ó tháillí iompórtála

Má sheolann duine bronntanas chugat ón lasmuigh den AE, agus má bhíonn luach faoi bhun €45 air, ní gá duit dleacht custaim nó CBL a íoc. Chun bheith incháilithe don fhaoiseamh seo, caithfidh an bronntanas a bheith de nádúrl ócáideach agus é sheoladh ag duine príobháideach amháin go dhuine príobháideach eile. Is féidir leat roinnt earraí a cheannach ó lasmuigh den AE suas le luach € 22 gan CBL a íoc. Ríomhtar an luach ar luach iomlán an ruda, móide postas agus dleachtanna. Is é seo an luach a úsáidtear chun CBL a ríomh freisin, má tá sé iníoctha.  Má cheannaíonn tú earraí ón lasamuigh den AE a bhfuil luach níos mó ná €150 orthú, caithfidh tú dleacht custaim a íoc chomh maith. De ghnáth déantar dleacht custaim a ríomh mar chéatadán de luach iomlán na n-earraí, lena n-áirítear costas postais, phacáistíochta agus árachais. Gearrtar cáin, dleacht custam agus dleacht máil i gcónaí ar tháirgí inmháil (amhail alcól, tobac agus cumhrán) ó lasmuigh den AE, is cuma a luach.

Tá dearbhú custaim ag teastáil ó gach pacáiste a fhaightear ó lasmuigh den AE, a chomhlánaíonn an seoltóir de ghnáth é. Ba cheart go gcuimseodh an dearbhú cur síos ar na hearraí, an luach agus cibé acu an bronntanas nó nithe tráchtála iad.  Ofráileann roinnt suíomhanna gréasáin do chuid earraí a mheas faoina luach chun táillí iompórtála a sheachaint. Tá sé seo mídhleathach. Tá tú, mar iompórtálaí na n-earraí, freagrach as a chinntiú go bhfuil an t-eolas a sholáthraítear cruinn agus go n-íoctar gach dleacht agus cáin. D’fhéadfadh roinnt suíomhanna gréasáin seachadadh a ghealluint ó laistigh den AE freisin, rud a chuirfeadh táilli iompórtála as an áireamh, ach atá i ndáiríre ag seoladh a n-earraí ó lasmuigh den AE. Más é seo an cás, tá tú féin faoi dhliteanas dleachtanna agus CBL.

Know Your Rights: Buying goods online


I have ordered a few presents from a Belgian website. Can I return them if I change my mind when I get them?

Answer (November 2017)

Online purchases from businesses based in the EU are covered by the EU Directive on Consumer Rights. Under this Directive you are entitled to a cooling-off period of 14 days. During the cooling-off period, you can cancel distance contracts such as online purchases without giving a reason and without incurring charges or penalties, other than possible charges incurred in returning the goods. The 14-day cooling-off period begins on the day that you receive the goods.

Upon cancellation, the distance seller is obliged to repay you within 14 days, including delivery costs. If you chose a more expensive type of delivery than the seller’s cheapest standard delivery, you are only entitled to be refunded the cost of the cheaper delivery type.

The seller can withhold the repayment until the goods are returned or until you supply evidence that you have sent the goods back.

You must send the goods back within 14 days of informing the seller of the cancellation. You may have to pay for the cost of returning them. The seller must inform you of such costs before you complete the purchase.

The seller should also have provided you with confirmation of the contract, as well as information on aftersales and guarantees, how to cancel the contract and a postal address for complaints. If the seller did not provide you with information on your right to cancel, the cooling-off period can be extended by 12 months.

Some purchases are not covered by the cooling-off period. These include customised or perishable goods and bookings for transport or accommodation.

Know Your Rights: Replacing lead pipes // Piopáin nua a chur in ionad Píopáin luaidhe


Can we get a grant to replace lead water pipes in our house?

Answer (September 2017)

The local authorities administer a means-tested grant scheme to help low-income households with the cost of replacing lead pipes and fittings.

If your income is below €50,000 a year, you may get a grant of up to 80% of the cost, up to a maximum of €4,000. If your income is between €50,001 and €75,000, you may get up to 50%, up to a maximum of €2,500. You will need to provide evidence of your household’s income when applying to the local authority for the grant.

You must own the premises and live in it as your principal private residence (your main home). You must get the remedial work done before applying for the grant, and it must cost at least €200.

You must have evidence of a risk of lead contamination in your home. This can either be:

  • A letter from your water supplier (Irish Water or a group water scheme), advising that your water system probably contains lead pipes and fittings, or
  • A recent certificate from an accredited laboratory, showing that the level of lead in your water supply is higher than the legal limit

The contractor who does the work must give you the following: a current tax clearance certificate; itemised receipts; written confirmation that the works carried out and the materials used are of an appropriate quality and standard.

You will need to enclose all these documents with your grant application.

If you are an Irish Water customer and you plan to replace your lead piping, you must first apply for Irish Water’s Customer Opt-in Lead Pipe Replacement Scheme.

You may be able to get some tax relief under the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme even if you get a grant to replace your lead piping – see


An féidir linn deontas a fháil chun píopáin uisce luaidhe a athru inár dteach?


Riarann na húdaráis áitiúla scéim deontais atá faoi thástáil mhaoine mar chabhair do theaghlaigh atá ar ioncam íseal leis an gcostas píobáin agus feistis luaidhe a athrú.

Má ta d’ioncam faoi bhun €50,000 in aghaidh na bliana, féadfaidh tú deontas suas go 80% an chostais a fháil , suas go huasmhéid €4,000. Má ta d’ioncam idir €50,001 agus €75,000, féadfaidh tú  50% a fháil, suas go huasmhéid €2,500. Ní mór duit fianaise ar ioncam do theaghlaigh a thabhairt nuair a dhéanann tú iarratas ar an deontas  leis an údarás áitiúil.

Ní mór go bhfuil an áit chónaithe faoi d’úinéireacht agus caithfidh tú cónaí ann mar d’áit chónaithe phríomha. (do phríomhtheach). Ní mór go ndéantar an obair dheisiúcháin sula ndéanann tú iarratas ar an deontas agus ní mór go mbeadh costas €200 ar a laghad air.

Caithfidh tú fianaise a sholáthar, chomh maith, i leith riosca i leith éilliú luaidhe i do theach. I measc na fianaise atá inghlactha, tá an méid a leanas:

  • Foirm fógra ó do sholáthraí uisce (uisce Éireann nó scéim ghrúpa uisce) a chuireann in iúl gur dóchúil go gcuimseofar i do chóras uisce píobáin agus feistis luaidhe nó
  • Deimhniú saotharlainne creidiúnaithe a eisíodh le déanaí, a léiríonn go bhfuil an leibhéal luaidhe i do sholáthar uisce níos airde ná an teorann dlíthiúil

Ní mór don chonraithóir a dhéanann an obair an méid a leanas a thabhairt duit: deimhniu imréitigh cánach reatha; admhálacha miondealaithe: deimhniú i scríbhinn go bhfuil na hoibreacha a rinneadh agus na hábhair a úsáideadh ar an gcáilíocht chuí agus ar an gcaighdeán cuí.

Ní mór duit na cáipéisí seo go léir a chur le d’iarratas ar dheontas.

Féadfaidh tú roinnt faoisimh cánach a fháil faoin scéim Dreasachta Athchóirithe Tí fiú ma fháigheann deontas chun do phíobáin luaidhe a athrú – féach