“I rent out a small self-contained flat under the rent-a-room scheme. Since last July, I have accommodated two Ukrainian refugees in my house for which I receive €400 a month, increasing to €800 a month from this month. This will bring me over the limit of €14,000 for the year. The Government says the income from refugees is tax free but, in my circumstances, would this apply?” – Ms R.J.

I’m not sure whether these two Ukrainian refugees you are accommodating are staying in the self-contained flat or in your house in addition to the people occupying the self-contained flat. I’m assuming, given your concern at exceeding the €14,000 figure, they are staying with you while your normal long-term tenants remain in the self-contained flat. Either way, the good news is that you will not face a tax bill.

The important thing here is that the refugee support scheme is entirely distinct from the rent-a-room scheme and there is nothing I am aware of to prevent anyone availing of both schemes alongside one another, as long as they meet the specific rules for each. So you can earn the €800 a month from housing your two Ukrainian refugees as well as up to €14,000 a year from renting a room to other tenants in your self-contained flat.

Confusingly perhaps, they operate in very different ways. While the rent-a-room scheme is self-reported and comes to Revenue’s attention only when you file your tax return for the relevant year, you actually need to apply for the Accommodation Recognition Payment, which is the scheme paying out to households that accommodate people who have fled here from Ukraine.

Importantly, income earned under either scheme does not get taken into any means test calculation for weekly welfare payments.

As you say, the payment under the Ukraine refugee programme has been €400 a month until now. However, given the Government’s desperation to source additional beds to house Ukrainian and other refugees, it has doubled the monthly payment for those housing Ukrainians to €800 from this month. Do bear in mind that, for each monthly payment, the key date is that at least one refugee is living in the premises on the last calendar day of the month.

Practicality suggests that most people will apply for the payment when they make the decision to start accommodating people. While you are obliged to offer the accommodation for a minimum of six months, you do not need to wait until the six months have passed to make a claim. However, if you are accommodating Ukrainian refugees and have not yet made a claim, you can still backdate a claim to March 4th of last year.

The money is paid by electronic funds transfer from the Department of Social Protection on the second Tuesday of each month and it can be sent to an Irish, British or European bank account as long as it is covered by Sepa – effectively all of the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Monaco. It can also be sent to a N26 or Revolut account.

So what are the rules? Well, first of all the people you are housing must be in Ireland under the EU temporary protection directive and you must be making the accommodation available for a minimum of six months. If you make that commitment in good faith and subsequently find yourself unable to comply – perhaps because you or a family member falls ill, for example – there is no need to worry. You will not have to repay the money given to you for any month that the refugee was actually living with you.

The accommodation also needs to meet certain standards which you can find here for which the checklist alone is 18 items long.

And you will not qualify if there is a rental agreement put in place with the person being hosted. In that case, you are back to the rent-a-room scheme and there the cumulative total of any income earned in the year is €14,000. However, unlike rent-a-room, it is possible to qualify for the Accommodation Recognition Payment if you are asking the refugee guest (or they offer) to contribute towards costs such as utilities and food.

And, of course, you need to be the householder though that can be either as owner or as a tenant yourself.

You’re already receiving the payment, of course, but for others who have not yet applied or who are considering taking in Ukrainian refugees, they will need to provide certain information to the Department of Social Protection with their application. This includes their own name, address and PPS numbers, details of the accommodation including its eircode, when they started taking in Ukrainian refugees (and when you stopped if that is the case) and, finally, the name and PPS number of anyone currently staying with you under the programme, when they arrived in your house and, if relevant, when they left.

Applications cam be made through a person’s mywelfare portal or to the Department of Social Protection at PO Box 13267, Wexford, Co Wexford or by email to ARP@welfare.ie.

Source: Dominic Coyle, Deputy Business Editor, Irish Times.

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