Know Your Rights A:
I heard that I can get a tax exemption if I rent out a room in my home. How does this work?
If you rent out a room or rooms in your home as residential accommodation, the income you earn is exempt from tax, provided the total paid by the tenant(s) is not more than €12,000 in a tax year (this was €10,000 from 2008 to 2014) and you satisfy the qualifying conditions for the relief (for example, the relief does not apply to rent payable by your child). This is called rent-a-room relief. It applies to a room or rooms in your home – which can include a self-contained unit such as a basement flat or a converted garage. The relief does not apply to rooms that are not attached to your home.
You must live in your home as your sole or main residence during the tax year for which you are claiming the relief. You do not have to own the property – you could be a tenant and be sub-letting to someone else. (In such cases, you would have to check with your own landlord that sub-letting is allowed.) Your tenant(s) must be using the room as residential accommodation. For example, you can claim relief if you are renting a room to a student for the academic year, but not if you are taking in short-term guests.
Renting a room in your home is not covered by landlord and tenant legislation so you do not have to register as a landlord with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), provide a rent book to the tenant or ensure that the accommodation meets any minimum physical standards. The gross income you receive cannot be more than the relevant limit for the year in question. This includes sums that the tenant pays to you for food, utilities, laundry or similar goods and services. When you are working out whether the gross income is more than the limit, you cannot deduct any costs you incurred in earning that income. If your income from rent and other services is over the limit, the profits from the entire income (not just the amount over the limit) are taxable.
If you qualify for rent-a-room relief, the income is not liable to PRSI, the Universal Social Charge or income tax. Claiming rent-a-room relief does not affect your mortgage interest relief or your exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) if you sell your home. You do not have to claim rent-a-room relief as it applies automatically. However, if you are submitting an annual tax return you must record the amount of the exempt income on the return.
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below and from revenue.ie.
Know Your Rights B:
Changes to the One-Parent Family Payment
I’m getting a One-Parent Family Payment. I know that the age limits for the payment will be changing in July. What’s happening and how will it affect me?
On 2 July 2015 the age limit for the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) will reduce to 7 years for most claimants. This means that a large number of people will no longer qualify for OFP from July 2015 because their youngest child will be over the age limit. If your youngest child is aged under 7 you can continue to qualify for OFP. (There are exemptions to the age limit for people parenting alone who are getting a Domiciliary Care Allowance or who have been recently bereaved.)
If your payment is ending in July 2015 the Department of Social Protection (DSP) will write to tell you the date your payment ends. You may also be requested to attend an information seminar. At this seminar you will get information about the other social welfare payments that may be available to you and help with applying for these. It is very important that you attend the seminar so you fully understand your options and so that you are not left without a payment when your OFP ends in July.
If you are getting Family Income Supplement or a carer’s payment this payment will automatically be adjusted when your OFP ends and you will not be invited to a seminar.
You may also qualify for the new Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD). If you are getting FIS and your OFP is ending in July 2015, you will be sent an application form for the BTWFD along with the letter explaining the changes to your OFP payment.
If you were getting a One-Parent Family Payment in the last 3 years and your youngest child is aged under 14 you may qualify for the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement. This arrangement allows you to work part-time and still receive a partial payment.
You can get more information and advice on these changes at your social welfare local office or Intreo centre or your nearest Citizens Information Centre.
Know Your Rights C:
Getting married abroad
My partner and I are getting married next year. We are planning to travel abroad for the ceremony. What do we need to do?
If either your or your partner are Irish citizens and you are thinking of getting married outside Ireland, the legal validity of your marriage is governed, in part, by the laws of the country in which you marry. In most, if not all cases, the legal formalities abroad are very different to those in Ireland. For example, a church marriage abroad is usually a purely religious ceremony with no legal effect. Because it is not recognised in law in the country in which it takes place, it cannot be regarded as a legal marriage in Ireland. This is the case even though a marriage in the same church or denomination in Ireland is legally binding. This is because the religious ceremony is recognised in Ireland as a civil contract.
It is very important, therefore, that you make sure to meet all the legal requirements of the country you are marrying in. You should contact the civil registration office in that country to find out what is required. You may decide to have a civil marriage in Ireland followed by a religious ceremony abroad.
Although you must meet the foreign requirements, you are still bound by Irish law as far as the capacity to marry is concerned. For example, your marriage abroad will not be recognised under Irish law if one or both of you was ordinarily resident in Ireland and one or both of you was aged under 18 at the time of the marriage and did not have a Court Exemption Order.
Marriages that take place outside the State are not normally registered in Ireland. They are usually registered in the country where they occur. Your foreign marriage certificate will usually be accepted for official purposes in Ireland if you need to show evidence that you are married. If the certificate is in a foreign language, you must provide an official translation or a translation from a recognised translation agency.
You may require a Certificate of Freedom to Marry to get married in some foreign countries. This may also be called “Certificate de Coutume” or “Certificate of Nulla Osta”. You apply online to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for a Certificate of Freedom to Marry.
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.
Know Your Rights D:
Medical card holders and prescription charges
I am a medical card holder. I have just realised that I am paying more than the monthly cap of €25 for our family’s prescriptions. Why did this happen and can I get a refund?
If you have a medical card, you are charged €2.50 for each prescription item you receive. Usually your pharmacy keeps records of how much you have paid and makes sure that you do not pay more than €25 each month on prescription charges. However, you may use different pharmacies in the same month or your family members may not have the same medical card number (for example, if a different doctor is used) and you may end up paying more than the cap of €25 per family per month.
If a person or family pays more than €25 in a month, the Health Service Executive (HSE) will issue a refund at the end of the quarter, without you needing to apply. This is done on the basis of the information received from your pharmacy.
However, if you think that you have not received the refund due you can also claim directly from the HSE using claim form PC1 (which you can download from medicalcard.ie, collect at your Local Health Office or get by phoning 1890 252 919 (Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm).)
You can set your family up as a family group on medicalcard.ie and print off a family certificate to give to your pharmacist. This will show all of the members of your family so that the pharmacy will not collect charges above the monthly limit. Your family is defined as you, your spouse or partner, any children under 16 years of age and any children between 16 and 21 years of age who are in full time education.
If you do not have access to the internet you can ask your Local Health Office to help with setting up a family group. You can also call 1890 252 919 or your local pharmacist may be able to help you.
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.