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Harris raised tax relief for GEM graduates with Donohoe

Minister Harris was also in communication on the issue with the then Minister for Finance Michael Noonan before Budget 2017, as was previously reported in the Medical Independent (MI).

However, no such measure has been announced to date.

A Department of Health spokesperson told MI: “This issue was raised in correspondence to Minister Donohoe prior to Budget 2018…The retention of GEM and other medical graduates is being progressed through a range of initiatives, including implementation of the MacCraith recommendations. In particular the recommendation of the Group concerning pay for new entrant consultants has been addressed through implementation of the agreement reached with the IMO at the Workplace Relations Commission in January 2015. Also, the Living Out Allowance has been restored and incorporated into the pay of interns, SHOs and registrars.”

In 2014, a campaign was mounted by GEM graduates and students on the matter of debt arising from the high cost of GEM programmes. A paper produced by campaigners reported that one-third of EU students graduating from Irish medical schools had taken the GEM route. Over 60 per cent had taken out loans of €60,000-€100,000 to cover tuition fees and living costs, it stated.

The campaigners’ proposal involved the introduction of tax relief on repayments of approved loan products. Relief would be permitted as a deduction against an individual’s taxable income at their marginal rate rather than as a standard rate tax credit.

The income tax relief as proposed would have reduced loan repayments for GEM graduates by 37-to-38 per cent. The annual cost of the scheme was put at approximately €5 million.

In 2017/18 at the RCSI, the overall EU fee for the GEM programme (including the EU tuition fee, student contribution charge etc) is €16,940 per annum.

The EU fee at University College Dublin for its GEM programme is €14,931 (inclusive of a Student Centre Levy of €254).

The GEM fee for EU students at University College Cork is listed as €14,580, while at University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medicine School, the EU fee for 2017/18 is €14,843.

The GEM degree programmes take four years to complete.

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