Delivering a Basic Income Pilot

Posted on Wednesday, 12 May 2021
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It is possible to implement a Basic Income for artists and art workers according to Social Justice Ireland.  The Think-Tank’s latest study shows that the Government could honour its commitment to pilot a Universal Basic Income by introducing a Basic Income for artists as proposed recently by the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce Report.  This initiative would have minimal costs to the Exchequer and could be implemented from 1st January 2022.

“In Ireland, there have been many studies, papers, seminars and many questions as to how basic income would work and what the effects of basic income might be. Ultimately, the biggest element in these activities has been conjecture.  Social Justice Ireland’s  research on Basic Income (UBI) Pilot for Artists provides the answers to many of these questions” – stated Dr Seán Healy, at the launch of Social Justice Ireland’s ‘Universal Basic Income Pilot for Artists’ study.

“The purpose of our study is to show how a secure basic income for artist and performers could be implemented. Such an initiative would relieve some financial stress and enable artists to focus on their art maximising their achievements in their chosen field” – stated Colette Bennett, Economic and Social Analyst with Social Justice Ireland, at the launch of this study.

“A four-year pilot Universal Basic Income for Artists would allow Government the opportunity to develop and adjust the UBI model in light of ongoing evaluation.  This would maximise its effectiveness and allow a detailed and considered assessment of the implications of potentially turning the pilot into a permanent scheme for artists/performers, or extending the pilot across society.  Our study also provides Government with the means to enact the main recommendation of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce Report and deliver on its own Programme for Government commitment to a basic income pilot”– Colette Bennett.  

A Universal Basic Income Pilot for Artists/Performers: How would it work?

  1. Eligibility

Eligibility criteria are derived from the Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Artists on Jobseeker's Allowance.

  • Be aged over 18 and under 66
  • Meet the habitual residence condition.
  • Be a member of one of the listed certifying professional organisations and provide a certificate or declaration from a professional body as to their status as a professional artist. 
  • Be registered as self-employed with Revenue.
  • Have at least 50% of their income derived from work as a professional artist in the previous year.


  1. Universal Basic Income Payments

As part of the Pilot, payments are secured for the full four-year duration of the pilot at a rate of €203 per week.  Eligibility would be retained for other Social Welfare entitlements e.g. Back to school clothing and footwear, Rent Supplement, Child payment, Domiciliary Care Allowance.

UBI would be withdrawn from high earners gradually through the tax system, as market income grows from €170,000 to €250,000


  1. How would UBI interact with the Taxation System?

Income Tax/PRSI/USC would become a Single Composite Tax

UBI would be included in Total Income and be part of the tax base.

Initial tax rate would be very low and would not be levied when only income is UBI.

  1. Number of Participants and Exchequer Cost

Option 1: All eligible applicants are included in the Pilot. 

A key benefit of this option is that all artists/performers would be able to avail of the advantages of UBI. If 14,200 eligible participants apply and are accepted into the pilot, the annual Exchequer cost could be c. €27m.

Option 2: Limit the number of participants. 

The Pilot could be limited to 3,000 participants for example.  Quotas for age and gender could be applied so that the pilot is representative of the population per the Census of Population.  A matched comparator group would also be selected.  A benefit of this option is that comparisons would be possible between those artists/performers on UBI and those artists/performers who are not. If the pilot had 3,000 artists/performers, the annual cost would be c. €5.7m

  1. Proposed Timeline

May – July 2021: A Steering Group is appointed and commences work. The proposal is discussed/modified by the Steering Group and a Memorandum goes from the Minister of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht to Government by the end of July.

August-October 2021: The Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection prepare legislative amendments that will be required in the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill.  Revenue establish a Unit to implement the pilot and commence IT preparations. 

November-December 2021: Applications are invited from artists/performers and their eligibility is assessed.

1st January 2022: Pilot UBI for Artists/Performers is fully operational.