922/2021 - A Man and The Irish Times
The Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint that The Irish Times breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 29 June 2021 The Irish Times published online an article giving advice on how people can reduce the taxes they pay through claiming allowances. The article stated that people in their sixties were subject to the “biggest tax bonanzas”. The article stated: “Take a couple earning €40,000 a year in income. They are giving up about €5,753 of this in tax every year, or 14 per cent of their earnings, according to PwC’s income tax calculator. Once they turn 65, their tax bill shrinks to €2,703, or just 7 per cent of their earnings”.
A man submitted a letter for publication to The Irish Times stating that the PwC site “is simply wrong. It gives a rise in tax credit from EUR4,950 to EUR6,400, a rise of EUR1,450. The actual rise for a married couple is EUR490”. When the letter was not published he emailed the paper stating that he was surprised that no correction of the article had been published. He subsequently emailed the editor stating that he had received no reply to his previous emails and that he was surprised and disappointed that no correction of the errors in the article had been published.
The man made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming that the article published on 29 June 2021 had breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Irish Times made a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman. The newspaper apologised for its failure to respond to the man’s original emails and said that the failure to respond was due to a member of staff being on annual leave and a misunderstanding as to who should reply to the man. The newspaper acknowledged that the references to tax relief in the article for those who have reached 65 needed to be made clearer and on this basis the article online was amended to read:
They are giving up about €5,753 of this in tax (including PRSI) every year, or 14 per cent of their earnings, according to PwC’s income tax calculator. However, once they turn 65, their tax bill (including PRSI) shrinks to €2,703, or just 7 per cent of their earnings, due also to the impact of marginal relief which limits the amount of tax someone in that age bracket pays at the higher rate, depending on their income.
The man was not satisfied with The Irish Times response to his complaint. He stated that his “main criticism of the original article was directed at the paper’s unquestioning acceptance of the figures on the PwC website, The Irish Times has relied on the same source (for its reply) without due analysis.” He repeated his claim that the article had been inaccurate and misleading. He said “Let’s be clear: those aged over 65 do NOT generally benefit from a much greater exemption limit. A couple get an extra €490.”
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a formal decision.
The advice given about taxation savings to those aged 65 in the original article required clarification as the calculation of savings had not included the fact that those over 65 do not pay PRSI and that marginal relief is available for over 65s which limits the amount of tax someone in that age bracket pays at the higher rate depending on their income. The newspaper clarified this in its amendment to the article online. However, Principle 1.3 states
When appropriate, a retraction, apology, clarification, explanation or response shall be published promptly and with due prominence.
In my view the amendment to the article online did not meet the requirement of due prominence. In order to fulfil the requirement of due prominence the newspaper needed to publish a clarification in a more prominent manner that acknowledged the need to amend the original advice on taxation savings for the over 65s.
21 October 2021