Age Action has warned the Government that its plans to increase the rate of Universal Social Charge (USC) for pensioners and medical card holders from 4% to 7% from January would cause untold hardship among a section of society which is already struggling to make ends meet.
“During our consultations with older people across Ireland in recent months we heard time and again from older people who are being forced to choose between food, fuel and medications,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. “This unacceptable situation is a result of increasing demands on their fixed pensions from new taxes and charges. Another hike in the USC would push some older people over the edge.”
The older people’s charity noted that the reduced rate of 4% for people aged over-70 and medical card holders under-70 was introduced in 2011 and was due to expire at the start of 2015, as reported in today’s Irish Independent. But it urged the Government to reverse this decision and maintain the reduced rate.
“Given the hardship which older people on low incomes are facing, it would be ludicrous to scrap the reduced rate, knowing the suffering it would cause,” Mr Timmins said. “This government was elected on the promise that it would protect the vulnerable. If it is serious about honouring this promise, it cannot introduce yet another tax hike, and take more money out of the pockets of low income pensioners.”
Age Action has called on the Government to make a definitive statement, before the European and local elections, that the 4% reduced rate, and those eligible for it, will remain unchanged and that plans to increase it to 7% will be dropped.
Age Action’s consultations with older people across Ireland highlighted the huge financial pressure that many were facing. From their fixed pensions (and falling pensions in the case of some older people), they are paying a long list of new taxes and charges including property tax, hiked prescription charges, soaring fuel bills (with cuts to their fuel supports), rising telephone charges (following the abolition of the phone allowance last year), and rising medical costs (for older people in poor health who are losing their medical cards on income grounds).