Business

Cross-border tax rules posing serious difficulties to work-life balance

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Paul Quinn

BEFORE the pandemic hit, cross-border workers, who live in the Republic and work in the North, had to accept an inconvenient truth: a meaningful work-life balance was simply not possible.

Irish home-working tax rules meant that if I performed any work-related activities from home, be it checking an email or taking a phone call, my income faced a ‘double tax'. This meant I often had to take unnecessary, often long, commutes into the office to perform a task that would have taken mere minutes at home. In emergencies, this often involved travelling in the very early hours.

The Irish Government temporarily waived these rules for the pandemic, and for cross-border workers like me, this was transformational. Home-working flexibility meant I was able to spend quality time with our families.

Simple things like taking my children to school, to a hospital appointment or to football practice, were now possible. The opportunity to work remotely meant I could finally strike a good work-life balance, making time for the people I love while still performing my day-to-day role.

From January 2022, the end of this waiver means cross-border workers are back to square-one. Members of the Cross Border Workers Coalition like me will face commutes of up to 100km per day to our workplace, sacrificing up to 12 hours per week in travel time, just to avoid a ‘double tax' on our income.

And it's not just time that we lose. With remote work now the norm among employers across the island of Ireland, employees may be unable to take up certain roles due to the home-working flexibility needed.

Remote work is here to stay, but our home-working flexibility is not. Without immediate action from the Finance Minister in the Irish Government's October Budget, and thousands of other cross-border workers like me are set to be left behind.

Border communities are the backbone of the all-island economy, and if the Irish Government is serious about protecting frontier communities, this issue must be addressed.

From expensive childcare arrangements to missing out on family milestones, these home-working tax rules pose significant financial and human costs to hard-working border families across the north.

For cross-border workers like me, all eyes will be on the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is set to deliver the Republic's Budget on Tuesday October 12.

I hope that common-sense prevails, and that permanent, positive change is introduced for cross-border workers across the island of Ireland.

:: Paul Quinn is co-chair of the Cross Border Workers Coalition

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