McGrath eyes ‘very good’ budget as election nears

Speaking in Washington, the Minister for Finance urged businesses with warehoused tax debt to engage with Revenue

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath expects to sign off on a “very good” Budget 2025 package later this year as the Coalition prepares to defend its record in advance of a general election.

Speaking after an Atlantic Council event in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, the Mr McGrath also urged businesses with warehoused tax debts to engage with the Revenue Commissioners before the May 1st deadline, which he does not expect to be extended.

“I think they should meet the deadline and engage,” Mr McGrath said. “We have provided ample notice of that date, which was already an extended date, so I don’t want to give any indication that the date is going to change. Engagement is my message.”

Mr McGrath is in Washington attending the IMF/World Bank spring meetings session along with Minster for Public Expenditure and president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers Paschal Donohoe.

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In an open conversation with the Atlantic Council, the Fianna Fáil TD gave his views on European and national fiscal policy. During the session, Mr McGrath spoke of a more fluid European banking system, with the issue of member states being free to access out-of-state mortgages and savings a priority for the next EU Commission – an aspiration of particular interest to Irish customers suffering from higher mortgage rates and moribund savings initiatives.

“I’d be reluctant to give an estimated time frame as to when individuals in Ireland will be able to have full access to products from institutions based in other countries because it requires agreement and reform, but I think that is the destination we need to work towards,” he said.

“It is not that long ago when we had 12-14 high street banks in Ireland which was probably too many, but I’d like to see new entrants.”

In relation to the Government’s decision to defer the referendum on the Unified Patent Court, Mr McGrath acknowledged the failures of the recent referendums had influenced thinking.

“I think it would be wrong of us to assert that there was no learning from the referendums held,” Mr McGrath said.

“One of them was the need for protracted consultation and engagement and explanation of the proposal being put forward. We concluded it would be rushed were we to proceed with June 7th. We really can’t afford to get this wrong. There is a lot at stake for businesses.”

Mr McGrath told guests at the meeting of his reservations about the policies promoted by Sinn Féin and that the Government has 11 months to convince the Irish public of the benefits of “stable government and the opportunities that a strong economy can afford us”.

“A lot can go wrong in a small open economy like Ireland and we need to have the right domestic policies,” Mr McGrath said afterwards.

A giveaway budget would be one obvious method of persuasion and, noting that it was still six months off, the Minister said that he anticipated “a very good budget in October with all of the elements we have been discussing over the last number of days on welfare, on public service investment, on income tax, on public capital programme”.

Mr McGrath has been frequently touted as a likely successor to Mairead McGuinness as Ireland’s European commissioner when the role becomes vacant in the summer but was circumspect about his interest in the position.

“I have an old fashioned view to focus on the job you have and I love the job I have. I have only had the opportunity to bring in one budget as Minister for Finance. And I am looking forward to the preparation of Budget 2025. It is a matter for my party leader, for the Tánaiste Michael Martin, and he has a difficult decision to make.”

Mr McGrath and Mr Donohoe attended a reception hosted by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason at the Residence of Ireland on Wednesday evening at which Ms McGuinness and Gabriel Makhlouf, governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, were also guests of honour.

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