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Know your rights: CAO late application

The closing date for applying to college was 1 February. Can I still apply?

You apply for almost all full-time undergraduate courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO). This includes, for example, university and institutes of technology undergraduate courses such as Higher Certificates at Level 6 and degrees at Levels 7 and 8.

The closing date for 2021 CAO applications was 1 February 2021. However, late applications are allowed up to 5.15pm on 1 May 2021.

There is a fee to apply for courses through the CAO and late applications pay an increased fee. Late online applications cost €60.

Regardless of when you applied, you can access your application to change the courses you picked or the order of courses. This Change of Mind facility is free. It opens on 5 May and closes on 1 July 2021 at 5:15pm.

If you want to be assessed as a mature applicant, or if you want to be considered for the HEAR and/or DARE schemes, most colleges require you to have applied to the CAO by 1 February 2021. You must submit your completed application for DARE and/or HEAR by 1 March 2021 and submit all your supporting documents by 15 March 2021.

There are also some restricted courses which you cannot apply for after 1 February 2021. 

The CAO’s handbook lists all the courses on offer and gives information on how to apply.

Decisions on offers of places are normally made in August and September, after the results of the Leaving Certificate have come out. A detailed schedule of the offer rounds is in the CAO handbook.

It is important to note that there is no central applications body for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Students must apply directly to the individual colleges. You should check the closing date for PLC courses with the college where the PLC course is taking place.


During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.

Know your rights: Claiming tax relief on utility bills when working from home

I’m working from home because of COVID-19. Can I claim tax back on my utility bills?

If you are working from home (also known as e-working or remote working), you may be able to claim tax back on your broadband, heating and electricity bills.

You qualify for the tax relief if your employer formally requested you to work from home and you:

  • Log onto a work computer remotely
  • Complete your duties from home
  • Work at home for substantial periods of time

This applies to part-time and full-time workers.

How much can I claim?

Some employers already pay their employees an allowance towards broadband, heating and electricity expenses. You can get up to €3.20 per day without paying any tax, PRSI or USC on it. However, you must pay tax, PRSI and USC as normal on any amount above €3.20.

If your employer does not pay you an allowance for expenses, you can make a claim for tax relief at the end of the year using Revenue’s myAccount service.  

The amount you get is based on:

  • How many days you worked from home (excluding non-working days and annual leave)
  • The cost of the expenses
  • Revenue’s agreed rate for calculating the cost of running a home office (10% of your electricity and heating bills and 30% of your broadband bill)

If you split your bills with someone else (such as a partner or house mate), you can only claim tax relief on your share of the bill.

Keep a record of all your receipts and bills so that you can account for each expense you intend to claim. You may also need a letter from your employer stating that you work from home.

How do I submit my claim?

You can see worked examples of how to calculate your claim. Example 1 covers a person who pays the bills on her own. Example 2 explains how to calculate e-working costs where you share your bills with someone else.

Claim your tax relief at the end of the year using Revenue’s myAccount service.  

  1. Sign into myAccount
  2. Click on ‘Review your tax’ link in PAYE Services
  3. Select the Income Tax return for the relevant tax year
  4. In the ‘Tax Credits and Reliefs’ page (Page 4 of 5) select the ‘Your job’ tab. Select ‘Remote Working Expenses’ and insert the amount of expense at the ‘Amount Claimed’ section

Read more about e-working and tax relief.


During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.

Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

On 12 January 2021, the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (pdf) was published. On Wednesday 13 January 2021, the Taoiseach made a statement in the Dáil on the report and its contents and apologised on behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens to the survivors. This was followed by a statement and apology from the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The Government has published FAQs explaining the findings of the report.

The report is available online. Printed copies of the full report can be requested by former residents or family members who need to provide the Department with a postal address. More information about ordering full copies will be published shortly. There is no charge for the report for former residents. Printed copies of the full report will also be available in public locations such as libraries and Citizens Information Centres, when the public health situation permits.

Shorter copies of the report are available immediately. This version includes approximately 304 pages covering the Introduction, Timeline, Executive Summary, Recommendations and Confidential Committee Report. For a copy of the shorter report, call 01-6473200 or email motherandbabyhomes@equality.gov.ie. 

Counselling supports for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes have been published on gov.ie. A new webpage with information on counselling services specifically for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes has been set up by the HSE. Additional mental health supports provided/funded by the HSE are also available to former residents. 

The Barnardos Post Adoption Service has extended its support line on (01) 4546388, or by email adoption@banardos.ie and is available Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm. Support groups for adopted adults and birthmothers are also available.

Know your rights: Shopping online from the UK after Brexit

I ordered something online from a UK website – will I have to pay extra charges when it arrives?

From 1 January 2021, you may have to pay extra tax when having your online shopping delivered from the UK (this does not include Northern Ireland). This is because the UK has left the European Union (Brexit)and the transition period that was in place ended on 31 December 2020.

Depending on the item’s value and where it was made (place of origin), you may have to pay:

  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Customs duty

How will I know if I owe these taxes?

If your package is valued at €22 or less (including the transport, insurance and handling costs), you do not have to pay any VAT or customs duty.

However, if your package is valued at €23 or more (including the transport, insurance and handling costs), you have to pay VAT. The standard rate of VAT for most items bought in Ireland is 21%.

If the items were made in the UK and are valued at €150 or more (not including transport, insurance and handling charges), you do not have to pay customs duty.

However, if the items were not made in the UK and are valued at €150 or more (excluding transport, insurance and handling charges), you may have to pay customs duty. The amount of customs duty you pay depends on the type of product you buy.

You should be aware that the value limits are for the whole delivery, not just one item.

How do I pay these charges, and who do I pay them to?

You may have already paid Irish VAT and customs duty during the checkout stage of your online purchase. This is because some UK retailers are registered with Revenue and automatically charge the relevant taxes as part of the purchase. Check your receipt (this is usually sent to you by email) to see if you have already paid Irish VAT or customs duty.

If the UK business is not registered with Revenue, the postal service or courier will send you a bill before delivering your package. This is because the postal service or courier completes all the relevant customs declarations, including where the product is manufactured. You will usually be charged an administration fee for this service, which can be a minimum of €10 to €15.

Are there any other changes to my consumer rights when I buy from the UK?

As a result of Brexit, there are changes to your consumer rights when buying online from businesses in the UK. You will still have consumer rights but they will be set down in UK law and not EU law. It is very important to check the terms and conditions on the seller’s website to find out your rights around:

  • Returning the item if you change your mind
  • Cancelling the item before it is dispatched
  • Complaining if something goes wrong

Read more about buying online from the UK after Brexit, including what to do if things go wrong.


During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.

Know Your Rights: The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

I attend a DEIS school and want to go to university. My family are not well off.  Is there anything to help me go to college?

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) helps school-leavers who may not traditionally go on to third-level education access it. Under the HEAR scheme, third-level places are allocated to school-leavers on a reduced points basis.  For example, a HEAR student with 356 points might get a place on a course that usually requires 366 points.

Participating colleges also provide extra supports for HEAR students.

When you apply to the Central Applications Office (CAO) for a college place, you must indicate on your CAO application that you wish to be considered for HEAR. To qualify for HEAR, you must meet certain indicators or criteria related to your financial, social and cultural circumstances. For example, your family income must be below a certain limit for your family size. Other factors are taken into account such as having a medical card, attending a school in the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme and living in a disadvantaged area.

You must apply to the CAO by 1 February 2021 and complete your HEAR application by 1 March 2021. Copies of your supporting documents must reach the CAO by 15 March 2021. Late applications are not accepted.

You should start preparing your HEAR application as soon as possible. You will need to gather supporting documents, such as information from the Revenue Commissioners, a statement of income from the Department of Social Protection and whatever other documents are required in your case.

You can get more information in the HEAR 2021 handbook (pdf) and accesscollege.ie. Your school can also provide information and support.  You can get more information about HEAR on citizensinformation.ie


During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.

Overpayments of tax for 2020

Your Preliminary End of Year Statement from Revenue will be available in Revenue’s myAccount from 15 January 2021. It tells you whether your tax position is balanced or if you have underpaid or overpaid tax for 2020.

If you were on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) or the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) during 2020 and have a tax underpayment, you can get more information about how you can repay.  

Ireland is moving to full level 5 restrictions until 31 January

The Government has announced that Ireland will move to full level 5 restrictions from 31 December 2020 until 31 January 2021.

At level 5, you should stay at home except to exercise within 5 kilometres of your home. There should be no gatherings other than small numbers at funerals and weddings.

You can see a full summary of the changes on gov.ie.

Changes from 31 December

ActivityGuidance
Visitors to your home or gardenNo visitors except for essential family reasons or people in your support bubble
Domestic travelStay at home except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, or to take exercise within 5km of home
RetailEssential retail only from close of business on 31 December
Primary and secondary schoolsRe-open on 11 January
WorkWork from home unless working in essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home
WeddingsMaximum of 25 guests up to and including 2 January; maximum of 6 guests from 3 January
FuneralsMaximum of 10 mourners

Ireland is moving to level 5 restrictions from 24 December

Due to the rise in COVID-19 infections, the Government has moved Ireland to level 5 restrictions from midnight on 24 December 2020 until 12 January 2021. Some transitional arrangements apply over Christmas and there are some specific adjustments to level 5 restrictions.

A double rate of the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will be paid for two weeks to businesses that are forced to close as a direct result of Government restrictions on 26 December and commercial rates relief will apply for affected areas during the first 3 months of 2021.

The current restrictions on travel from Britain to Ireland will stay in place until at least 31 December. You can read more about level 5 restrictions on gov.ie.

Transitional arrangements for Christmas

From 3pm on 24 December (Christmas Eve):

  • Restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants will close
  • Hotels may provide food and bar services to guests only after that point

Up to and including 26 December (Saint Stephen’s Day):

  • Visits from up to 2 other households will be permitted

Up to and including 31 December (New Year’s Eve):

  • Visits from one other household will be permitted

Travel outside your county is allowed up to and including 26 December (Saint Stephen’s Day). After 26 December, people who are away from home can return to their place of residence.

From 1 January 2021 no visitors are allowed in private homes/gardens (except for essential family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, or as part of a support bubble).

Weddings, funerals and religious services

Christmas religious services may take place, but will move online after 25 December when places of worship may remain open for private prayer

Up to and including 2 January 2021 weddings can have up to 25 guests and from 3 January, weddings can have up to 6 guests. At level 5, up to 10 mourners can attend funerals.

Specific adjustments to Level 5

  • Non-essential retail can stay open. The retail sector has been requested to defer sales in January.
  • Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools can remain open for individual training only
  • Hotels may only open for essential non-social and non-tourist purposes except for guests who already have a booking and are due to check in up to and including 26 December
  • You must remain within your county (as opposed to within 5km of your home) apart from travel for work, education or other essential purposes
  • Non-contact training in pods of up to 15 may take place outdoors
  • No matches/events should take place except for professional and elite sports and horse racing and greyhound racing behind closed doors

Supports over the Christmas period

The nationwide network of Citizens Information Centres will close on Wednesday 23 December 2020 at 1pm and reopen on Monday 4 January 2021 at 9am.

The Citizens Information Phone Service will operate reduced hours over Christmas.

Day Date Opening hours Comment
Wed 23/12/20 9- 5 Reduced hours
Thurs 24/12/20 Closed Christmas Eve
Fri 25/12/20 Closed Christmas Day
Mon 28/12/20 Closed St. Stephens Day
Tues 29/12/20 9 – 5 Reduced hours
Wed 30/12/20 9 – 5 Reduced hours
Thurs 31/12/20 9 – 5 Reduced hours
Fri 1/01/21 Closed New Years’ Day
Mon 4/01/21 9 – 8 Normal hours resume

If you need emergency support over the Christmas period you can contact a range of voluntary services.

Service CallOpening hours Email
Samaritans
If you are in distress or struggling to cope
116 123
24 hours (any time, day or night)
jo@samaritans.ie
Pieta House

If you are suicidal or engaging in self-harm
1800 247 247
24 hours (any time, day or night)
info@pieta.ie
Rape Crisis Centre

If you need support with a crisis
1800 778 888
24 hours (any time, day or night)
info@rcc.ie
Women’s Aid

If you are affected by domestic violence
1800 341 900
24 hours (any time, day or night)
info@womensaid.ie
Men’s Aid

If you are affected by domestic violence
01 5543811 Open 10-4 on 28, 29 and 30 December
Closed from 24 December to 27 December and 31 December to 3 January
hello@mensaid.ie
Childline

Support for everyone up to the age of 18 in Ireland
1800 666 666
Free Text 50101

24 hours (any time, day or night)
 
50808

If you are experiencing a crisis and are unable to cope


Text HELLO to 50808


24 hours (any time, day or night)


The HSE has a full list of online, phone and text mental health services.

Know your rights: Vehicle registration tax

I imported a car into Ireland last week but I couldn’t get an NCTS appointment until January 2021. Will my VRT be based on when I brought the car into Ireland or the date that it goes to the VRT centre?

While allNational Car Testing (NCT) Centres are open, they are operating at a reduced capacity because of COVID-19 and are experiencing high levels of demand. You will not be charged a penalty for a late registration if your registration appointment is within 30 days of bringing your car into Ireland.

If you imported a vehicle into Ireland before 31 December 2020 and can’t get an appointment for an inspection before 1 January 2021, the rate of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) you pay will be calculated based on the new payment rates for 2021.

From 1 January 2021, new VRT rates will apply based on the CO2 emissions of passenger cars. This is a new EU emissions test called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). The current 11 band table for VRT will be replaced with a 20 band table based on a new rates structure. 

The new VRT rates will range from 7% for the lowest CO2 emissions to 37% for the highest. In addition, you have to pay a Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) levy based on the NOX emissions of your car.

You can read more about the process of importing your vehicle into Ireland on citizensinformation.ie. For more information about upcoming changes to the way VRT is calculated, you can contact the Revenue Commissioners’ Central Vehicle Office on 01-7383619.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

A limited number of appointments are being made in Citizens Information Centres offices where social distancing can be facilitated. You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.