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A Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI): “Minister Harris made representations to the Minister for Finance regarding the possibility of providing tax-relief to doctors from graduate-entry medicine who had taken out loans to finance their medical degrees.”
However, no such measure was included in Budget 2017.
In 2014, an energetic campaign was mounted by GEM graduates and students on the matter of debt. They developed a document, which called for 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.
According to the paper, the proposed income tax relief would reduce loan repayments for GEM graduates by 37-to-38 per cent. The annual cost of the scheme was put at approximately €5 million.
Senator Colm Burke, Fine Gael’s Seanad Health Spokesperson, has supported the proposal in order to encourage recruitment and retention of Irish doctors. He told MI the Government is “afraid that if they take it on board, there will be other groups looking for a similar facility”.
The 2014 paper by GEM debt campaigners reported that over 60 per cent of GEM students had taken out loans of €60,000-€100,000 to cover tuition fees and living costs.
Dr Paddy Hillery, IMO NCHD Committee Chair and a 2011 graduate of the RCSI’s GEM programme, told MI that many of his former classmates are in Australia, where there is a much more favourable tax programme.
See feature pages 4-6