Tackling rising insurance costs, a commitment to maintain our corporate tax rate and a cut to the rate of Capital Gains Tax are among the priorities set out out by business lobby groups in their wish lists ahead of Election 2020.

The election takes place against a robust economic backdrop with exchequer returns at record levels.

However, there is an awareness that storm clouds are gathering on the horizon with Brexit still having the potential to turn sour as negotiations resume on the future EU-UK relationship.

And although China and the US have buried the hatchet on trade, there is plenty of scope for further upsets to the global economy as the two sides get back around the table.

There is also the prospect of more tariffs on European goods going into the US market. Europe has been firmly in the focus of the Trump administration. Taxes have already been levied on European goods entering the US arising from a row over subsidies given to European plane maker, Airbus.

With this in mind, businesses are looking to the next administration to give some clarity on issues it can help to manage to make the business environment somewhat certain for the coming years.

"Costs have increased in recent years with the transfer of water and waste services to Irish Water and private commercial waste services."

Insurance costs

This is the big one for the small and medium sized business sector in particular.

Both the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) and the Small Firms Association (SFA) have put tackling insurance costs at the top of their lists. Both are seeking measures to combat the rising cost of premiums, as well as the measures to scale back the substantial increase in public liability and related legal costs.

This was an issue that the National Competitiveness Council homed in on its most recent competitiveness report. It concluded that insurance costs in Ireland were out of line with other jurisdictions, increasing the cost of doing business which, in some extreme cases, results in the closure of businesses. ISME went as far as publishing its own revised Book of Quantum, the guide for insurance claims payouts.

The group representing retailers, Retail Excellence Ireland, said the recent slow but steady progress made in the area of insurance must be intensified and momentum built on.

It called for the introduction of emergency legislation to tackle rising insurance costs as well as the allocation of funding for the establishment of an independent appeals body from decisions of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) to determine the fairness of awards.

The good news for the business community on this particular measure is that they have broad support from the public who are feeling the pinch of increasing insurance costs on their motor insurance in particular. And the political parties have been responding with robust proposals to tackle this issue.

Sinn Féin has adopted one of the proposals of the Alliance for Insurance Reform with a promise to resource a Garda Insurance Fraud Unit, "funded with reserves built up by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board".

It's also proposing the abolition of levies paid on non-life insurance policies which it says would see premiums falling by 5%. It also proposes mandatory disclosure by insurance companies to the Central Bank of how it sets its prices.

Fianna Fáil's proposals include possible legislation to place a cap on insurance payouts and, if unsuccessful, a referendum to allow payouts to be capped. It also said it would increase penalties for fraudulent insurance claims.

Among the Fine Gael proposals are a commitment to cut the cost of insurance by extending the transparency of the claims database to cover public/employer liability insurance. It also says it will make perjury a statutory offence.

Rates

Commercial rates are one of the primary sources of local government funding.

They are essentially the financial contribution that businesses make to the upkeep of the local community.

Rates are calculated based on the valuation of a commercial property but changes can be dramatic in any given year. Most of the business groups would like to see some certainty introduced to the rates calculation process. A revaluation of properties and their rates is currently underway.

Retail Excellence Ireland is calling for the introduction of a cap on how much bills can rise and fall. The SFA calls for a fundamental reform of the commercial rates regime, while ISME wants the next Finance Minister to overhaul all property taxes, including the local property tax.

"Businesses are paying more rates for fewer services," Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland said.

"Costs have increased in recent years with the transfer of water and waste services to Irish Water and private commercial waste services."

Capital Gains Tax and Entrepreneur Relief

Capital Gains Tax is the tax charged on the profit, or capital gain, made following the disposal of an asset or a transfer of ownership of an asset by way of a gift or exchange. The tax is levied at a rate of 33%.

Business and employers' group Ibec wants to see what it calls "meaningful reform" of the system for entrepreneurs. Chambers Ireland called for a gradual reduction in the rate to bring into line with other European countries, while the SFA and ISME go as far as calling for a cut in the rate to 20%.

Fianna Fáil is the only party to directly commit to reducing the rate from 33% to 25% over five years. Fine Gael said it would review the rate over the next five budgets.

Relief from Capital Gains Tax is available to entrepreneurs disposing of certain business assets. The relief provides for a 10% rate of CGT for sales of certain assets owned for at least three years and up to a lifetime limit of €1 million.

Chambers Ireland calls for the lifetime limit to be raised to €10 million, while the SFA is seeking a limit of €15 million.

Liam Lynch, KPMG partner and Head of Private Clients, has been looking at the various party manifestos in relation to this tax.

"There are high level promises made in relation to Entrepreneur Relief, with Fine Gael proposing a review of the current relief and Fianna Fáil promising an increase in the lifetime gains limit eligible for the 10% rate from the current €1 million threshold to €15 million," he said.

"The Green Party focus is on early stage companies with a proposal for a Capital Gains Tax rollover relief to defer tax on a company exit gain where proceeds are invested in early stage companies."

Earned Income Tax Credit

This was introduced in 2016 in an attempt to level the playing field between taxation of the self-employed and that of PAYE workers.

Initially introduced at a rate of €550, it currently stands at €1,500.

Raising the credit to €1,650, in line with the Employee Tax Credit, has been a key demand of all business groups in advance of successive budgets in recent years. It forms a rare point of agreement between the political parties.

"All the parties support equalising the position of self-employed and PAYE workers by equalising the Earned Income Tax Credit and PAYE tax credit at €1,650 per annum," Mr Lynch said.

Corporation Tax

Another rare point of harmony between political parties and business lobby groups. There's unanimous support for the 12.5% corporate tax rate, but parties differ on the points of implementation of the tax.

Solidarity-People Before Profit says the tax must be implemented across the board with all corporations paying the rate consistently and equally and ending what Richard Boyd Barrett referred to as "jiggery pokery" by some multinationals which he said saw them minimising their tax bills.

However, a study by PwC and the World Bank found that the tax paid by Irish-based companies was "broadly in line" with the headline tax rate on profits. The 2020 PwC World Bank Paying Taxes Report shows Irish companies paid 12.4% of their profits in taxes, just short of the statutory 12.5% rate.

Sinn Féin has proposed ending the tax break being used by bailed out banks to avoid paying corporation taxes owing to losses accumulated during the financial crisis.

The Social Democrats want to see a "sunset clause" being introduced on how long banks can offset losses against their tax obligations.

Labour is pledging a major review of the sustainability of the corporate tax base here, but party leader Brendan Howlin denied that it was a signal of the party's intention to target the 12.5% rate. It's also proposing the establishment of a Commission on Taxation to conduct an ongoing review of the taxation system and of all tax reliefs.

"The next government must get behind...indigenous businesses to unlock the untapped potential and ensure our competitiveness in what is now a very challenging world."

There is broad recognition of the transient nature of corporate tax receipts with political parties and lobby groups subscribing to the warning from the Central Bank and the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) that the tax heading is volatile and the pot is likely to shrink as changes to the global tax regime are implemented in the coming years.

Ibec says the incoming government must respond to the challenges of global tax reform by providing certainty on the 12.5% rate and improving innovation supports, such as the Entrepreneur Relief and Research and Development tax credits.

It also calls for the ring-fencing of overruns in corporation tax for spending on infrastructure improvements, innovation and education.

The Cost of Employment

With an increase in the minimum wage from €9.80 to €10.10 being introduced from today, the cost of employment is a particular issue for smaller businesses. ISME points out that the rise in the minimum wage will do little to make living in Ireland more affordable for lower paid people while putting an extra burden on employers.

"Ireland is too expensive for citizens and SMEs," ISME CEO Neil McDonnell said.

"The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform should be tasked with driving reductions in key cost components of the Consumer Price Index, especially household rents," he added.

ISME is also calling for a legislative ban on upward only rent reviews on commercial premises.

Retail Excellence Ireland says the increase in the minimum wage, together with the doubling of employers' PRSI for low paid workers to 8.8%, is a 'significant hindrance' for business.

"The Low Pay Commission recommended that any increase in the minimum wage should be met with an equal and proportionate decrease in the rate of Employers' PRSI," the group said in its proposals.

It's calling for the introduction of a permanent 4.25% employers' PRSI rate for low paid workers earning under €380 per week in order to enable employers to meet the cost of the national minimum wage increase.

The Small Firms Association agrees that wage pressures are a significant issue for employers and present threats to competitiveness.

"We need a coherent strategy to support the 98% of businesses that employ half of the private sector workforce in Ireland," SFA Chairman Graham Byrne said.

"The next government must get behind these indigenous businesses to unlock the untapped potential and ensure our competitiveness in what is now a very challenging world."

None of the parties are proposing a reduction in employers' PRSI, but some are proposing to increase it.

Solidarity-People Before Profit says Irish employers make one of the lowest social security contributions in Europe.

It's proposing to increase the rate of employers' PRSI, especially on high earners.

Sinn Féin is proposing the introduction of a 15.75% rate of employers' PRSI on all salaries above €100,000.

Currently the higher rate is 11.05% on weekly earnings above €395.