Sinn Féin advocates increasing income tax for high earners

Sinn Féin would consider raising income tax if Stormont was given greater fiscal powers

Sinn Féin would consider raising income tax for higher earners if fiscal powers were devolved to Stormont.

Former education minister and Upper Bann Westminster candidate John O'Dowd said his party wanted the Northern Ireland Executive to be given tax-raising powers to help lessen the impact of any British government cuts to public services.

Under the heading "Ending Tory Cuts", the Sinn Féin manifesto states that one of its priorities is: "Securing the fiscal powers to build a fair an prosperous economy".

The document does not elaborate on the policy proposal, however, Mr O'Dowd outlined more detail during a BBC radio interview yesterday.

He said Sinn Féin wanted to see the executive given increased tax-raising powers.

Two revenue-raising examples the Upper Bann MLA offered were income tax and landfill tax.

"We want to see the transfer of fiscal powers to our executive to allow to have greater control of tax varying powers," Mr O'Dowd said on the Nolan Show.

"We raise the taxes – not in the sense of increasing taxes but we are the people who gather those taxes – and we are the people who decide how those taxes are invested."

He claimed that "even with limited powers" the Stormont executive had "mitigated against the worst aspects of the Tory cuts over this last number of years".

Pressed on whether Sinn Féin advocated increases in income tax, the former education minister said: "I wouldn't rule out putting up income tax but I would want to see first of all where that money was going to be spent – would it spent in our health services, would it spent in our education services, what benefits would that bring to our local community as averse to people losing tax from their wages?"

Asked whether the increase would be across the board or targetting high earners, Mr O'Dowd indicated that it would be progressive.

"I think in terms of our society and how our workforce is taxed it's quite clear that those on lower incomes are adversely taxed by the current regime, so those who are on higher incomes I think it's only right and proper that they pay a higher rate of income tax," he said.

However, he said the executive would need information about income tax revenue from the Treasury before deciding the various tax rates.

The Upper Bann Westminster candidate refuted suggestion that the policy had not been thought through and argued that there was a lack of accurate information available.

Likewise, Mr O'Dowd did not rule out increasing rates, over which Stormont already has control, though he indicated that this would not be for all homes or businesses.

He said his party colleague Máirtín Ó Muilleoir had overseen a consultation which examined a variety "fair and equitable" ways of collecting rates while finance minister.

Mr O'Dowd said there were "areas within our current rates policy which would allow for a greater rates intake which then could be invested in public services".

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the party wanted the same tax powers that had been transferred to the Scottish executive, including income tax, stamp duty and landfill tax.

"We would also seek the transfer of two additional powers in national insurance – employers' contribution – which would be a major source of revenue and would act as a tool for job creation and capital gains tax on property which would reduce wealth inequality and improve affordability of housing," he said.

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