MINISTER URGED TO HIKE PRSI FOR SELF-EMPLOYED - A group advising Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is set to recommend that pay related social insurance (PRSI) be increased by more than a third for the self-employed. But lobby groups for the self-employed are set to oppose proposals for a huge hike, writes the Irish Independent. A new report recommends the rate should go up from the current rate of 4% to 5.5% to fund extra social benefits for those who work for themselves. Ms Burton is due to unveil the proposals today from the advisory group on tax and social welfare. The higher PRSI rate would be to fund the paying of long-term illness and disability benefits for the self-employed, which are not available to those who work for themselves at the moment. But the advisory group, headed up by barrister Ita Mangan, is understood to have concluded that there is no need to extend jobseeker's benefit to the self-employed. This is because the self-employed have access to the means-tested jobseeker's allowance, if their circumstances allow it. The report examined applications from the self-employed for jobseeker's allowance between 2009 and 2011 and found that 85% of the 20,000 people who applied for this dole payment were granted it. However, the higher PRSI payment that the advisory group recommends for all the self-employed to pay for disability benefits is set to be opposed by business group ISME.
SKILLED WORKERS MOVING, BUT GAPS REMAIN - Government policies to attract skilled employees from outside the EU have worked, but shortages persist in areas including ICT, healthcare and financial services, a new study has found. The research from the European Migration Network - Attracting Highly Qualified and Qualified Third-Country Nationals: Ireland - identifies the absence of clear policies on family reunification and long-term residence for non-EU workers as possible barriers to international recruitment in squeezed sectors. The Republic has declined to "opt-in" to EU directives in both areas. The recession may also be acting as a deterrent to highly skilled workers from abroad, according to the study's authors, Emma Quinn and Egle Gusciute, based at the ESRI. The Irish Times says that the study shows that almost half of the non-EU nationals at work in the Republic are involved in high-skilled occupations, with only the UK and Luxembourg showing higher proportions among 20 states collecting data. Almost 70% of non-EU workers in Ireland are educated to degree level or above - the highest proportion among the same 20 states - while a quarter of employment permits are issued to workers earning more than €60,000. As well as identifying shortages in ICT, healthcare, engineering and financial services, the authors highlight a deficit in the availability of skills such as foreign language proficiency and training in business.
MERRION PRE-TAX PROFITS RISE TO €1.6m - One of the best known five-star hotels in the country, the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, last year increased pre-tax profits by 7% to €1.6m. This followed revenues at Hotel Merrion Ltd increasing by 6% from €15.32m to €16.25m in the 12 months to the end of October last year. The Irish Examiner says that the Merrion is the hotel of choice for representatives of the troika when they arrive in Dublin to oversee the State’s finances and more recently was the Dublin base for Bruce Springsteen. The strong pre-tax profits enjoyed in the last two years follow a modest pre-tax profit of €34,599 in 2010 and losses of €568,640 in 2009 and €607,500 in 2008. The multi-award winning hotel comprises 123 rooms and 19 suites and guests can pay €249 for a standard room to €2,695 for the penthouse suite. The pre-tax profit also takes into account the non-cash depreciation cost of €194,502 last year. The hotel is controlled by businessman Lochlann Quinn, Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton, and the Hastings Hotel Group, the Northern hotel company controlled by Billy Hastings.
NETHERLANDS TO REVIEW TAX TREATIES WITH LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES - A proposal by the Netherlands to renegotiate its tax treaties with 23 least-developed countries marks a turning point for a country that has until now deflected accusations that it is a key player in tax avoidance by multinational corporations. The initiative, which comes as the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg is putting tax harmonisation issues high on the agenda, is the most concrete move yet by the Netherlands to address the criticisms, writes the Financial Times. Tax justice advocates say the country’s network of treaties with over 90 countries makes it a nexus for tax avoidance, allowing multinationals to reroute their profits through Dutch “letterbox companies” that do no real business in the Netherlands and exist largely for tax purposes. In an interview with the FT, the Netherlands’ deputy finance minister, Frans Weekers, acknowledged the criticism over the past year had taken a toll. And he said the controversy over the letterbox companies had damaged the Netherlands’ investment climate. “Over the past 10 years the trend has been for the number of letterbox companies in the Netherlands to keep growing. I want to turn that trend around,” Mr Weekers said. “I see the Netherlands being portrayed in a bad light. I don’t want to be portrayed in a bad light.”