With the economy in shreds and thousands of people forced into joblessness due to repeated covid lockdowns, the Irish government now wants to tax the pandemic unemployment payment and hand everyone a big fat tax bill to add insult to injury.

As the Irish Times reports:

“Thousands of workers to get Covid-19 tax bills next week: Revenue to tell wage-subsidy recipients how much they owe. An expert has suggested that someone who received the average weekly payment of €280 on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme could face a tax bill of some €1,167.

Thousands of workers who availed of State wage subsidies during 2020 will be informed next week by Revenue of any outstanding tax liability associated with those payments. The shortfalls, which could be more than €1,000 for some employees, arise because when the Government rushed to introduce schemes as the Covid-19 pandemic hit last March it did not allow for subsidies to be taxed at source. This means that those who received payments, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and Pandemic Unemployment Payment, must now arrange to settle bills, where they arise, on those payments.”

So, they didn’t tax it at the source, meaning they gave out the money, only to demand back part of it later. That’s government logistics for you – “Here’s two five euro notes – now give me back one of them”. That’s definitely not a waste of everyone’s time at all – apparently the Irish government have Rube Goldberg running their departments. The article goes on:

“The move from Revenue to collect unpaid taxes comes as the Government disclosed that weaker tax receipts for 2020, as well as Covid-related spending, are set to push public finances deep into the red. Exchequer returns for 2020, published by the Department of Finance on Tuesday, reveal that the budget deficit for 2020 is expected to be €19 billion. This contrasts with a surplus of €1.4 billion in 2019.”

So long story short, the State has run out of money, and needs to claw back some of the wage subsidies and unemployment payments that it has given out.

Now, in the interest of fairness, it’s worth pointing out that this did not come out of nowhere – the government had told us as far back as last summer that this could be happening later on down the line (meaning Pearse Doherty’s claim that the people were sideswiped by this news is not true). We were warned.

As reported in the Irish Examiner back in May 2020:

“The Government is reminding anyone receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, instituted as an emergency response to layoffs made in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, that they could face a tax bill at the end of the year.”

And on its face, at first glance, it might sound reasonable – after all, the State has been hemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate trying to combat covid, which is beyond anyone’s control, and as we all know money doesn’t grow on trees. Besides, nobody gets a free ride, and we all have to pay our fair share of tax & contribute, covid or no covid – right? Well, there are a variety of problems with that line of reasoning, and perhaps chief among them is the utter bollocks they have managed to spend money on in the meantime.

For starters, in the national budget for 2021, which was announced in October, deep into the economic damage, when we were under no illusions about the seriousness of the situation we faced, the government saw fit to increase our foreign aid contributions by €30 million euro a year, bringing the total to the better part of a billion euro. In fact, Ireland’s foreign aid payments have increased steadily for the last 7 years in a row, and apparently even an economy-destroying pandemic was not enough to put the breaks on the pathological altruism train.

To make a comparison, if a mother was in crippling debt, and yet was giving away money to charity while her own children went hungry, she’d be swiftly investigated by the State for negligence. However, when the Irish government sends taxpayer money abroad while thousands of Irish people suffer financially, that’s just seen as par for the course. What is the difference? Even if you support the concept of foreign aid in principle, now is absolutely not the time to give away what we don’t have. If anything, the figure should have been dramatically reduced, or even cut altogether, until we get our own house in order.

Not content with this lunacy however, Simon Coveney also sought to up the ante by quadrupling Ireland’s contributions to the WHO this year, bringing the total figure to almost €10 million.

Again, at this point you might think “Well, fair enough – we’re in a pandemic, and the WHO can help with that surely?” But that’s to forget that this is the same WHO that spends around $200 million a year on travel and putting up their officials in 5-star hotels (literally, that’s not an exaggeration).

For comparison, that’s more money spent on personal luxury than they spent on combating AIDS, hepatitis, malaria and tuberculosis COMBINED. They are, by far, one of the most corrupt mainstream organisations in the world and the definition of a gravy train – yet our government saw fit, in the middle of an economic catastrophe, to give them four times more money than they would get from us in a normal year.

You lost your job and are scraping by on €350 a week, but if it makes you feel any better, now you too can help to put up crusty UN bureaucrats at the Ritz. Congratulations.

And really this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to waste – if you wanted to talk about real emergency measures, think about all the things they could have defunded to save cash.

RTÉ, for starters, could have gone without State funding. Cut them off and let them sink or swim like any other news channel (preferably sink) – that’d save €180.8 million right off the bat.

Most NGOs, I think we can all agree, are basically worthless – when’s the last time you realistically sat there and thought “Thank God for the Migrant Rights Centre, don’t know where I’d be without that bastion of utility.” If you cut funding to the lot of them overnight most people wouldn’t even notice – maybe just that the country got a bit less whiny, but that’s about it. If you defunded most or all of them you’d be looking at €5.5 billion saved overnight (that’s BILLION, with a ‘B’).

Same goes for QUANGOs, which are almost universally agreed to be useless – you’d save hundreds of millions at least scrapping them.

The government even gave themselves a ministerial pay rise not too long ago – that needs to go. All politicians’ pay should take a massive hit, in fact.

The government doesn’t own the money, after all – they just manage it (and manage it badly). If they wanted to create a sense of social solidarity in this pandemic, there should have been a cut to all State officials’ wages. And there are loads more actions you could take, the examples are truly endless. Slash and burn, I say.

Now, some might write these measures off as “extreme”, and to those people I say this: we’re in extreme times, are we not? I mean, what are we to believe? That the virus is so bad it’s worth mincing the economy over, but Ryan Tubridy’s salary is too important & must be defended at all costs? That 500,000 people forced out of work is OK, but Simon Coveney not being able to afford a second annual holiday isn’t?

I generally tend to think Ireland gives out too much welfare, but in this case, what are people supposed to do? The government has literally forced tens of thousands of people’s jobs to shut down permanently. We can all argue until the cows come home about whether or not that was necessary, and maybe it was – but either way, that’s what happened. It’s not like these people are just spongers who decided to go on benefits for fun. They have been screwed by a State-imposed lockdown, which, whether it was needed or not, was beyond their control.

The government say they’re broke and need people to urgently pay tax on their covid payments, while wasting billions on some of the most useless tripe you’ve ever seen in your life. If that doesn’t drive you cracked, I don’t know what will.