A new report from Taxback.com finds that 9 in 10 people think that the Government should introduce more tax relief and/or financial assistance to help those who incur costs commuting to and from work.
However, almost half of these taxpayers are unaware of two key government schemes to help with the cost of commuting – the Taxsaver Commuter Ticket and the Cycle to Work Scheme. According to the survey of over 1,200 taxpayers from Taxback.com’s customer database, only 5% of those surveyed used both schemes.
The Cycle to Work scheme was introduced as far back as 2009 and is a great tax incentive scheme to encourage employees to bike to work. Under the scheme an employer can pay for a new bicycle (including bicycle accessories), with the employee then repaying the cost in regular instalments from their gross salary.
The Taxsaver ticket dates even further back to 1999, incentivising people to use public transport to and from work. The cost is deducted directly from gross salary and can mean savings of between 31% - 52% off the regular price of a travel ticket – be it bus, rail or the Luas as a result of tax, PRSI and USC savings, and depending on tax band.
The overwhelming majority (67%) voiced calls for reform in terms of the type and amount of assistance from the state to help reduce the cost of commuting for all workers. This is particularly timely given the cost of fuel for transport as well as efforts being made to reduce the number of cars on roads for environmental reason. Of those who called for change, 27% felt that more should be done, but only for lower-income employees as they are disproportionately impacted by commuting costs. Just 6% felt that the Taxsaver Commuter Ticker and Cycle to Work schemes are enough on their own.
Taxback.com point to recent statistics from the Department of Transport which show that 73.3% of journeys in Ireland in 2019 were made by car, with work and education being the main reasons for making a journey. Just 6.5% of journeys were made by public transport.
Commenting on the survey, Director of Taxback.com’s Employee Financial Wellbeing Service, Barry Cahill said, "If people are still relying so heavily on their cars, it stands to reason that they aren’t going to find significant relief in a public transport-based incentive; perhaps intervention in fuel prices or similar would make more of an impact for motorists in this regard. However, more emphasis is being placed on upgrading our national public transport network and infrastructure in line with our climate commitments, and so we may see tax incentives based around public transport and cycling becoming more popular and see greater take up of these schemes by workers going forward."
He added, "Our advice would be, do not stay in the dark about your entitlements. Check with your employer if they operate these schemes and check their requirements and your eligibility. Aside from the savings you’ll make, there are also the obvious environmental and health benefits to using public transport to a greater degree or cycling more, where possible."