Water charges and low-income earners

*The Government has stated that its priority in Government is to make water charges as fair, equitable and affordable as possible.  Unlike nearly all other jurisdictions, the Government has introduced household allowances to keep the cost of water charges affordable:
Ø        There will be a free allowance of 30,000 litres per annum for water usage for every household;
Ø        An additional allowance for every child under 18 so children go free.

*The water regulator has now determined that the average bill will be less than €240 per year. They further confirm that 80% of all bills will be less than €24 per month.

*On top of the existing generous allowances, further assistance with the cost of water services will be provided for households in two ways – through the tax system for working families and through the welfare system.

*Tax: To alleviate the burden of the new water charges on working families across the country, income tax relief will be available at the Standard Rate of 20% in respect of water charges up to a maximum of €500 per household per year.  The Water Charges Relief will be worth up to €100 per household per annum when claimed in the following year.

*Welfare: In terms of vulnerable groups on welfare, recipients of the Household Benefits Package and the Fuel Allowance – including the majority of pensioners, the long-term unemployed, lone parents and people with disabilities – will receive €100 per year to assist with the cost of water services.

* It’s important to note that water bills will based on household consumption, and therefore the water supports are similarly household-based.

*So even though a low-income earner may not necessarily be covered by the tax and welfare systems, the household in which they live may be – another family member may be in receipt of tax relief or entitlement to Household Benefits Package to assist with the household bill.

*The Switch economic model shows that the vast majority of households are covered by either the tax relief or welfare support.

*In cases where a low income-earner is in a household not covered by either, the Government has already committed to examining this.

*All households will receive support in meeting the cost of water services.

*In addition, the approach being adopted by the Government will allow Irish Water to make the necessary investment to the network.