|29 November 2011 - IPPN calls on Government to exempt schools from VAT|
Pre-Budget submission urges education budget to be protected as voluntary contributions decline
The Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), which represents over 3,000 primary school principals, today [Tuesday] called on the Government to exempt schools from paying VAT.
As part of its pre-Budget submission, Seán Cottrell, IPPN Director, said all schools should be zero-VAT rated from the beginning of the new financial year.
‘Each year, schools spend thousands of euro on supplies and maintenance services and, at a time when education funding is being reduced due to the budgetary environment, it makes sense to introduce a VAT exemption for all not-for-profit organisations, including schools.
‘The Government should move to introduce a VAT refund to charitable organisations similar to the model operated by the Danish government which does not contravene European Union regulations.
‘The measure would save schools at least €12,000, with even greater savings for larger schools,’ said Mr Cottrell.
He said primary schools are not entitled to claim VAT refunds like other businesses - even though the Department of the Environment categorises schools as businesses when imposing water charges.
‘As voluntary contributions to schools decline and overdraft interest rates rise, primary school principals and new boards of management are facing mounting school debts with no clear strategy from Government or patrons on how to tackle them,’ said Mr Cottrell.
IPPN President Gerry Murphy said many schools are struggling to meet the day-to-day costs such as telephone, insurance and energy bills.
‘The failure to exempt schools from VAT threatens to further undermine our education system with an increasing number of primary schools slipping further into debt.
‘In Australia, schools can reclaim VAT while, in Denmark, schools are exempt from VAT under Government tax policy,’ said Mr Murphy.
IPPN’s call comes following recent revelations that, last year, 167 schools availed of a special tax break that allows them to claim money back on voluntary contributions worth €250.
Under the scheme, schools qualify as charities so they are allowed to claim tax back on donations.
In its pre-Budget submission, IPPN also called on the Government to protect the education budget, describing it ‘an investment in the future prosperity and progress of our nation’.
IPPN urged that the rate of capitation be maintained and called for the elimination of bureaucratic red tape that slows school building projects going to tender and construction.
IPPN said a primary school pupil database was needed to track children from infant entry until transition to second-level education and beyond.
The organisation called for planned substitute cover so that a fully qualified teacher could be allocated to a cluster of small schools, allowing the teaching principal to be released from the classroom for an extended period to carry out administrative functions.
IPPN’s pre-budget submission also called for high-speed broadband access for all primary schools which should be given autonomy to spend grant aid according to local information technology needs.
The IPPN document recommended that class sizes be maintained.