Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has signalled changes to the Special Assignee Relief Programme as he plans to increase the income cap for the scheme.

The programme, which was first introduced in Budget 2012, is aimed at reducing the cost to employers of moving skilled individuals from their oversees operations to positions in Ireland.

The cost of the scheme doubled to €18.1m in 2016 from €9.5m after the cap of €500,000 in eligible income was removed and due to substantial growth in very high earners availing of the relief. 

The Minister said he wants to impose an income cap of €1m as the Finance Bill goes through the legislative process.

Mr Donohoe said this change would be effective for new entrants to the programme from January 1, 2019 and for existing beneficiaries of the programme from January 1, 2020.

A 2016 report shows that while the initial uptake of the scheme was low, the numbers of claimants continues to increase, with a greater than proportionate increase in cost.

Just 11 claimants availed of the scheme in 2012 but this figure rocketed to 793 in 2016.