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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.

Opening hours over Christmas

Citizens Information Board

The Citizens Information Board will be closed on Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 December and on Monday 1 January 2018.

Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS)

CIPS can be contacted on 0761 07 4000.

Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 December Open: 9am – 8pm
Friday 22 December Open: 9am – 3pm and 6pm – 8pm  (closed 3pm to 6pm)
Monday 25 December – Wednesday 27 December Closed
Thursday 28 December Open: 9am – 5pm
Friday 29 December Open: 9am – 5pm
Monday 1 January 2018 Closed
Tuesday 2 January Normal service resumes (9am – 8pm)

Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS)

Check with your local service.

The MABS Helpline can be contacted on 0761 07 2000.

It will be closed on Monday 25 December and Tuesday 26 December.

It will be open from Wednesday 27 December to Friday 29 December from 9am to 5pm. It will be closed on Monday 1 January 2018.

Normal hours of 9am – 8pm will be resumed from Tuesday 2 January.

Citizens Information Services

Check with your local Citizens Information Centre.

 

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

Question

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.

Ceist

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?

Freagra

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.