COST OF LIVING
It is widely known that Ireland, and, less famously,
Northern Ireland, are, compared to Canada, high-cost countries.
It is equally important to note that among the many attractive
aspects of living in those jurisdictions are things with favorable
cost implications. For example, they are terrific bases for cost-efficient
travel throughout Europe and beyond. (Interestingly, ex-pats who've
been away from Canada for a time are often heard complaining after
visiting there about how much Canadian prices have gone up since
the last time they were there!)
One can be sure that the Irish are always on the lookout for
bargains. There are frequent sales in the retail sector and in
Ireland historical barriers to competition (such as a cap on the
size of retail stores, including food outlets) are under pressure
both through legislative changes and new suppliers who are being
attracted to its booming economy. In fact, with the first phase
already open, Ireland is adding the largest shopping center in
Europe (Dundrum in Dublin), which includes a number of first-time
in Ireland stores, to its already plentiful supply of both fully
modern, large facilities and charmingly traditional small shops.
And the Irish counterparts to Canadian 'dollar stores' offer very
Canadian ex-pats and visitors comparing costs of like items in
Canada, Ireland and Northern Ireland must keep both sales tax
differences and the foreign exchange factor in mind. The price
of Irish goods includes sales tax (VAT) while sales taxes have
to be added to get full Canadian prices when making comparisons.
It is the exchange factor, however, that makes the biggest difference
in most price comparisons. In Ireland, one adds about 60% to the
euro price of Irish goods and services to get the equivalent price
in Canadian dollars. In Northern Ireland one multiplies by roughly
2.2 and rounds up. Canadians are accustomed to adding a premium
to get the Canadian dollar equivalent of purchases made in the
US. These euro and sterling adjustments are the same things.
The foreign exchange factor is, of course, a very significant
consideration for Canadian ex-pats and visitors whose source of
funds is from Canada. But it is a reality that has to be accepted.
For ex-pats, it is a major aspect of the adjustment to change
that has to be made to be happy. It is something to know about
in advance of moving; something to be taken into account along
with other major considerations like tax advantages (see TAXES).
It is also important to note, that a very different line of thought
applies to foreign exchange in the purchase of a house or apartment
than to the purchase of goods and services that won't be sold
later (see ACCOMMODATION).
Once it's decided that the strength of the euro or the pound relative
to the Canadian dollar won't prevent the move, the exchange factor
becomes something to be dealt with through smart shopping and
smart financial management. It must not be allowed to be a constant
source of complaint.
One other major purchase item is discussed here: buying a car.
While top model Mercedes, BMWs, Jaguars, Audis and Volvos abound
in Ireland Irish car prices are about 30% higher than average
western European car prices. New cars are taxed at a Vat rate
of 21% and a VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax, which is opposed by
the European Union!) adds a further cost of between 22% and 30%
of the retail price of a new car depending on engine size. Put
another way, combined VAT and VRT in Ireland amounts to 56%, 61%
or 73% of the pre-tax price (depending on engine size).
In Northern Ireland, the average tax on new cars is 17.5%!
Anyone from outside the EU who is planning to move to Ireland
or Northern Ireland -- driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road country
jurisdictions -- should note that, in addition to certain disabled
drivers, the following groups are exempt from paying Vehicle
Visitors to Ireland who have owned their vehicles abroad
for more than 6 months and who will be resident in Ireland temporarily;
People who have owned their vehicles abroad for more than
6 months and who are moving permanently to Ireland;
People posted to Ireland as part of the diplomatic corps.
Note that even if you are not required to pay VRT, you must still
register your vehicle. Registration must be made the day it arrives
in Ireland. Note also that you cannot sell a VAT/VRT-exempt vehicle
for more than 12 months after it is registered. For more information
about documentation, timing and other requirements, including
purchasing your first European vehicle free of VAT and VRT, check
Car insurance is also very expensive and shopping around is essential.
Of particular note is that a clean driving record in Canada will
not make for savings of any note. The key thing is to get an Irish
driver's licence. (See DRIVING