Cycle to Work Scheme not suitable for expansion says Department of Finance

The Cycle to Work Scheme is based around a system for employer-employee relationship and, so, is not suitable for expansion beyond that, the Department of Finance has said.

A parliamentary reply outlined how the Department of Finance does not deal with grant schemes for personal transportation — the finance department pointed towards the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s responsible for electrical vehicle grants, which comes under the remit of Eamon Ryan’s department.

The programme for Government promises to “Widen the eligibility of the Bike to Work scheme.” It also refers to “provide an increased proportionate allowance for e-bikes and cargo bikes”, which is seen as partly fulfilled with an increased amount for bicycles and safety gear covered under the scheme.

Including at least electric and cargo bicycles within the Electric Vehicle Grants scheme is seen as one option, but this too would likely require a change to the Finance Act at Budget time.

While bicycles are not part of the grant scheme, last week the grant system for electric cars came under fire for its non-targeted nature when the Irish Independent reported how millionaire motorists were using the grant to buy luxury sports cars.

The newspaper quoted Darren O’Rourke, a Sinn Féin TD for Meath East, who said: “The EV grants should be focused on supporting those on lower incomes upgrading to an electric vehicle; not to subsidise luxury high-end models for individuals who can easily afford them without grant support.”

According to KildardStreet.com a parliamentary question, Neasa Hourigan, a Green Party TD for Dublin Central, asked: “The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide grants and-or supports in line with the cycle to work scheme to those in receipt of the old age pension that wish to purchase a bicycle and or bicycle equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

Transport minister Eamon Ryan replied that: “As the Deputy is aware, tax policy is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance in the first instance. In that regard I very much welcome his announcement of increased thresholds under the existing Cycle to Work Scheme as part of the July Stimulus package. The increases are in line with the commitment made in the Programme for Governmentin relation to the Scheme.”

He added: “In relation to the specific suggestion of the Deputy, and noting the Minister for Finance’s responsibilities in the area, I do not have any such current plans; however, I do believe the issue can be considered more fully in the context of my Department’s review of Sustainable Mobility policy which is currently ongoing. I intend that the new policy framework will provide a strategic backdrop to the increased investment planned by this Government across the sustainable mobility programme, including active travel.”

Back in November of last year, Paul McAuliffe, a Fianna Fail TD for Dublin North West, asked would “The Minister for Finance if consideration will be given to amending the bike to work scheme to allow more cohorts access the scheme, including the self-employed and retired persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

Hourigan and Cormac Devlin, a Fianna Fail for Dún Laoghaire, asked the Department of Finance similar questions around the same time.

The parliamentary reply in the Minister for Finance’s name explain that the Cycle to Work scheme is not suitable for expansion beyond work situations.

The Minister said: “The scheme provides an exemption from benefit-in-kind where an employer purchases a bicycle and associated safety equipment for an employee to use, in whole or in part, to travel to work”

He said: “Benefit-in-kind is a charge to tax that applies where an employer provides an employee with a benefit such as a bicycle, car or accommodation. As stated above, an exemption from benefit-in-kind applies in relation to the cycle to work scheme, provided the required conditions are met. However, where an employment does not exist, for example, as may be the case with retired people and old age pensioners, such individuals cannot qualify for the scheme. Also, where an employer-employee relationship does not exist, for example, in the case of self-employed individuals, such individuals cannot qualify for the scheme.”

He added: “Finally, as Minster for Finance I do not offer any grant schemes for personal transportation. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is responsible for electrical vehicle grants and comes under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.”

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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