The Government has confirmed its new support scheme aimed at assisting businesses with the rising cost of energy will be extended to include professional firms under measures in the Finance Bill.

The draft legislation, which runs to 93 sections and over 200 pages and was published today, sets out many of the legislative changes needed to implement budget day announcements.

The €1.25 billion Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) was announced in last month's budget and was originally planned to cover just Case 1 businesses such as those involved in trade such as shops, hotels and restaurants.

However, following representations from those involved in professional businesses, such as doctors, accountants, solicitors and dentists, who are classed as Case 2 by Revenue, the Government has extended its scope to cover such firms.

New businesses will also be eligible for the TBESS scheme.

The fund aims to help mainly small businesses, covering up to 40% of the increase in energy bills up to €10,000 per month until February.

However, the Government has also decided that where a business operates from more than one location, the cap will be increased to a maximum of €30,000 a month.

The supports will be open to businesses that are tax compliant and have experienced a significant increase in their natural gas and electricity costs.

It will be administered by Revenue and will operate on a self-assessment basis, and run from September 1st to December 31st.

The Department of Finance said the intention is to extend it further to February 28th next year, subject to EU approval.

Today's Finance Bill also provides for the income tax changes, the rent tax credit and the defective concrete blocks levy which were announced on Budget Day.

It also contains a number of additional taxation measures that were not announced on Budget Day such as the increase in the threshold for cargo bikes under the cycle to work scheme and changes to the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP).

Cargo bikes can be considerably more expensive than ordinary bikes and even electric bikes and today's Finance Bill allows for the threshold for cargo bikes to rise to €3,000 to reflect this. The change will apply from January 1st.

The Bill also includes provisions to legislate for the 2023 income tax package announced on Budget Day, which will cost €1.3 billion in a full year.

The key elements will see the main personal tax credits increase by €75 each to €1,775 and the standard rate cut-off point for a single person rising by €3,200 to €40,000.

The home carer tax credit will also be increased by €100 to €1,700 - a 6.3% increase.

The Bill will also see the 2% USC rate band ceiling increase by €1,625 or 7.6% to €22,920 to take account of the National Minimum Wage increase that will apply from January 2023.

It also introduces a new €500 tax credit for renters, with each tax-paying tenant in a particular property being eligible for the credit in their own right. The credit is aimed at, and will be only available to, renters who do not receive State housing supports.

The credit will also be available in certain circumstances to parents who pay rent on behalf of their student child who is in third-level education.

The Bill also provides for a new Vacant Homes Tax (VHT) to be introduced next year.

A statement from the Department of Finance said the measure aims to increase the supply of homes for rent or purchase, rather than raise revenue.

The VHT will be self-assessed and administered by Revenue. It will apply to long-term habitable vacant residential property that is subject to Local Property Tax.

It will be paid by property owners. A property will be considered vacant for the purposes of the tax if it is occupied for less than 30 days in a 12-month period.

It also provides for a number of exemptions to ensure property owners are not unfairly charged for temporary vacancy arising from genuine reasons.

This will include properties recently sold or currently listed for sale or rent; properties vacant due to the occupier's illness or long-term care; and properties vacant as a result of significant refurbishment work.

Meanwhile, the 9% VAT rate reduction for gas and electricity will be extended for an another four months, until the end of next February, while VAT on newspapers will be cut from 9% to zero from January 2023.

"This is a "Cost of Living" Budget that underlines the Government's commitment to help individuals, families and businesses to deal with the challenge of rising prices," Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said.

Ibec has welcomed the Bill, but noted that some elements may need further work to ensure schemes meet their full potential.

"Care needs to be taken that the hard cap of €30,000 in energy supports per company is adjusted to take regard for threats to viability or reductions in activity or opening hours for businesses which might own multiple locations or sites," said Head of National Policy and Chief Economist, Gerard Brady.

"This could be done by allowing for additional support above the cap for companies which can show direct threats to their ongoing viability."

Mr Brady also said that while changes to BIK on company cars from January 2023 was announced in Finance Bill 2019, "it is our view that these changes should be delayed until the economic environment improves".

"Whilst the rationale for the changes was sound, the costs involved could run into multiple thousands in additional taxation for workers on even modest salaries."

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Chartered Accountants Ireland said the extension of energy support scheme is a huge relief to "Case 2" professional businesses.

"Many of these, such as dentists, solicitors, and accountants, are precluded by law from incorporation, and must operate as self-employed individuals, without access to the same entitlements as companies," said Brid Heffernan, Tax & Public Policy Lead.

She said the professional services sector makes an enormous contribution to the economy in terms of employment, exports and tax revenue. "Ensuring that this economic activity is supported is of direct benefit beyond the sector."

Retail Ireland, meanwhile, warned that the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme will not provide effective support for many retail businesses managing dramatic energy cost hikes. The group welcomed the fact that the scheme will provide meaningful support to businesses operating a small number of outlets, but the value of the scheme will be much more limited if a business has to spread the supports across a larger network of stores.

Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon said: "While the €30,000 monthly cap in energy supports is significant, for many businesses managing unprecedented energy costs across numerous sites, it will not be enough to ease the pressure. The cap should be raised and additional support offered to businesses where their viability is under threat."

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Earlier, Elizabeth Bowen, Interim Director of the SFA said it is too soon to say if the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) will be enough to help businesses survive a winter of rising energy bills.

"The issue with the new energy support is that it only runs until February," she said speaking on Morning Ireland.

"This is very disappointing and does not give certainty to small business owners, especially if we have a hard winter."

"We also want to see the 9% VAT rate extended to protect the thousands of jobs in the experience economy right across the country," Ms Bowen said.

Additional reporting by Gill Stedman