Large numbers of workers who were put on the first wage subsidy scheme are unaware they are facing a tax bill, a survey shows.
Almost four in 10 workers do not realise that they may be facing a tax bill after availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) payments during the pandemic, according to a survey by Taxback.com. Payments on the TWSS were not taxed at source, unlike its successor the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The tax practitioners found 95pc of workers who were on the TWSS face paying outstanding tax bills themselves, rather than their employer paying it. Half have yet to check if they have an outstanding tax liability.
Consumer tax manager with Taxback.com Marian Ryan said the findings show that there is still a scarcity of information and awareness among workers who have been placed on the scheme by employers over the last 12 months on their resulting tax position.
“We must empower our workers with knowledge and know-how – it’s only fair that they be given the tools to manage their finances,” she said.
The survey found most people want the Government to write off the tax bills of TWSS recipients. Employees with an income top-up from their employers will face a tax bill of between €300 and €2,829 at year end, depending on their income, Taxback.com said.
“We are concerned at the high number of TWSS recipients out there who still seem to be unaware that they may now owe Revenue money. Even of those taxpayers who are aware they might have a tax bill, most have yet to check, with many of them saying it’s not simple because they don’t know where to find out this information. While the remainder simply don’t want to know,” Ms Ryan said.
The ‘burying your head in the sand’ approach to financial affairs is concerning and is never in a person’s best interests, she added. She said tax bills as high as €2,900 would be a sting in the tail for workers who, although they didn’t receive any increased income, are now lumped with an additional tax liability as a result of receiving the payment.
“It is perhaps unsurprising that when asked – the majority of respondents (including those who didn’t receive the payment) believe that the Government should write off these tax bills.”
The TWSS was put in place last year to help struggling businesses. It came in for criticism because the employees who received the payments did not receive an increase in take-home pay, with many facing an additional tax bill.
Ms Ryan said there is a case to be made for employers to pay this tax, but many of them are not in a financial position to do this.
A typical worker on €35,000 who received the TWSS payment, which was not topped up by their employer, can expect to owe Revenue approximately €429, Ms Ryan said. If the same employee received the TWSS and their employer topped up their gross weekly wage, Ms Ryan said they can expect to owe approximately €1,334 in PAYE and USC.
But some may be due a refund. For a worker on €67,500 whose income was topped up by their employer to the maximum allowable amount, Ms Ryan said they should expect an underpayment of around €2,837.