Know your rights January 2015

Know Your Rights A: Freedom of Information

January 2015

Question

I believe you no longer have to pay fees when you make a Freedom of Information request. Are there any other changes?

Answer

A number of changes have been introduced to the Freedom of Information (FOI) scheme by the Freedom of Information Act 2014. The FOI scheme provides the following rights:

• A right to access information that is held by a body to which the FOI legislation applies
• A right to have official information relating to you amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading
• A right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting you

Previously, you had to pay an application fee of €15 when making a request for information. This application fee no longer applies. The application fees have been reduced for an internal review of a decision by a body on your request and for a review of the decision by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The new fees (which do not apply in the case of personal information) are as follows:

• Internal review, €30 (€10 for medical card holder)
• Review by Information Commissioner, €50 (€15 for medical card holder)

You may be charged for the time spent finding and retrieving records, and for any copying costs. You will not normally be charged for personal records.

Under the revised scheme, if the cost of search, retrieval and copying is €100 or less, no charge is applied. If the cost exceeds €100, the full charge applies. You cannot be charged more than €500. If the estimated cost is more than €700, the body can refuse to process your request, unless you refine your request to bring the cost below this limit.

The new FOI Act widens the scope of the scheme to all public bodies, unless specifically exempt. It also allows the Government to include other bodies that get significant public funds. Under the Act the bodies must publish a wider range of information about their activities than was previously required.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

 

Know Your Rights B: Income tax bands and rates

January 2015

Question

What are the income tax bands and tax rates for 2015?

Answer

The income tax bands and tax rates for 2015 were announced in Budget 2015.

Nearly all income is liable to tax. The amount of tax that you have to pay depends on your personal circumstances. There is a range of income tax reliefs available that can reduce the amount of tax that you have to pay.

Tax is charged as a percentage of your income. The percentage that you pay depends on the amount of your income.

The first part of your income, up to a certain amount, is taxed at what is known as the standard rate of tax. The amount that it applies to is known as the standard-rate tax band. The remainder of your income is taxed at a higher rate of tax.

For 2015 the standard rate of tax remains at 20% but the standard-rate tax bands have been increased as follows:

2014 2015
Single person €32,800 €33,800

Married couple/civil partners, one income €41,800 €42,800

Married couple/civil partners, two incomes €41,800 (1st income)
€23,800 (2nd income) €42,800 (1st income)
€24,800 (2nd income)

One parent family €36,800 €37,800

The higher rate of tax that applies to the balance of your income has been reduced from 41% in 2014 to 40% for 2015.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

 

Know Your Rights C: Preparing for retirement

January 2015

Question

I will be retiring from work in 2015 when I reach 65. What do I need to know about pensions and other benefits in retirement?

Answer

When you retire at age 65 you can claim Jobseeker’s Benefit, which is based on your Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. If you do not qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit you can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is a means-tested payment.

At age 66, you may be entitled to the State Pension (Contributory). If you do not have enough PRSI contributions, you can apply for a State Pension (Non-Contributory), which is means-tested. You should apply for State pensions at least three months in advance.

You may have contributed to an occupational pension scheme during your working life or you may have a personal pension arrangement. You need to contact the pension provider to find out exactly what benefits your pension gives you.

If you move from employment to retirement in the course of the year, you should get a PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) from your local tax office at the end of the year. This will trigger a refund of any overpayment of tax you might have made.

Your Jobseeker’s Benefit or State pension and any occupational pension are taxable. However, the tax exemption limits are much higher for people aged 65 or over and there are some extra tax credits.

At age 66 you will be exempt from paying PRSI. At age 70 you will pay a reduced Universal Social Charge if your annual income is €60,000 or less.

At age 66 you will also be eligible for a Free Travel Pass and may be eligible for the Household Benefits Package, which consists of a free TV licence and an electricity or gas allowance.

For medical cards and GP Visit Cards, which are means tested, the income limits are higher for people aged 70 and over.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

 

Know Your Rights D: Consumer rights during sales

January 2015

Question

What are my consumer rights when I buy something in the sales? Can I return sales items?

Answer

Your consumer rights during a sale are exactly the same as at any other time of the year.

Goods should be of merchantable quality, fit for their intended purpose and as described. If they are not, you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. The legislation does not specify whether it is the retailer or the customer who decides which form of redress is offered.

If you have a problem with goods that you bought at full price and are now on sale at a reduced price, you are entitled to a refund of the full price (if the shop is willing to offer a refund).

However, you are not entitled to a refund because you change your mind about something you have bought in a shop, whether this is during the sales or at any other time of the year. Many shops do allow you to exchange goods that you have had second thoughts about, but this is at their discretion. It is a good idea to check the shop’s refund policy before buying anything.

If you buy goods at full price but change your mind about them, and they are now on sale at a lower price, you may only be offered the reduced amount (if the shop is willing to offer a refund). You should always keep your receipts as proof of purchase and the price paid.

For more information, visit the website of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission at consumerhelp.ie.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Co Wicklow Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. See www.citizensinformation.ie for details of your local centre or phone our main office in Bray on 0761 07 6780
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000.

 

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