“Before the Covid crisis, people who qualified for the Central Bank exemptions could typically get them,” said Trevor Grant, chairman of the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors (AIMA). “Once Covid happened, the banks largely stopped giving exemptions.”

Your money: Seven things you must know on the new mortgage playing field

Meanwhile, Trevor Grant Chair of The Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors said that the figures indicate “a relatively robust property market which does not appear, at this time, to be heading for the big drop that some predicted.”


A basic Irish funeral can cost anywhere from €2,950 to €7,500 and more, according to a 2018 review by insurer Royal London. Having to purchase funeral items and services while grieving is hard, never more so than during a pandemic. Pricing is something no one really talks about. Two-thirds of people underestimate funeral costs, according to the Royal London survey, so the bill can be a shock.


More than nine in every 10 businesses believe their business continuity plans have been successful during COVID-19, according to a new survey from the Association of Compliance Officers of Ireland (ACOI).

‘The fact that 47% of respondents said their plan needed a lot of tweaking is testament to the unique and unprecedented shock this crisis has been to the business community,’ ACOI chief executive Michael Kavanagh sai


The BT Blog #7

The Enterprise Support Grant for businesses impacted by COVID-19

Who can apply & What costs are covered?

While there have been a raft of financial measures introduced by Government to help aid businesses affected by COVID-19, and particularly as part of the recent July Stimulus Package, one that will be of particular interest to Ireland’s struggling micro-enterprise sector is the Enterprise Support Grant, restructured as the Enterprise Support Grant for businesses impacted by COVID-19. The Grant has been recently revamped and will now apply as a once-off payment to eligible small businesses to assist with their re-opening costs. Plumbers, beauticians, taxi drivers and micro-entrepreneurs of all kinds read on…

The most vulnerable economic group to the damage wrought by the COVID pandemic has been sole traders and micro-enterprises. These enterprises form the back-bone of Ireland’s economy, with micro-enterprises i.e. those with less than 10 employees, accounting for 92.1% of all enterprises in the country in 2017[1]. For many of these sole-traders and small firms, the ability to bounce back from the pandemic will likely be highly contingent upon financial support and aid from the Government.

One of the most recent supports announced by Government has been the extension of the Enterprise Support Grant (ESG) to assist eligible business owners, who have come off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in recent weeks, to restart their business via a once-off payment. The grant, administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, has hitherto been in place to provide financial support to new businesses and entrepreneurs in conjunction with the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme. This program helps eligible individuals who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who have a business idea, to get set up and become self-employed. While the primary focus of the ESG prior to the pandemic was to support enterprises set up under the BTWEA scheme, it has now been extended to support self-employed people who were in receipt of the PUP but who have since closed their payment on, or after, the 18th May 2020.

Wider access to this grant will provide an important source of financial support to many professionals such as electricians, hairdressers, gardeners, and many others, who want to restart their business but who may be facing hefty opening costs incurred by PPE, cleaning and sanitary products, compliance costs, and signage to name a few.

What is the Enterprise Support Grant for businesses impacted by COVID-19?

The grant is a once-off payment, available to an upper ceiling of €1,000, which is aimed specifically at helping those businesses and business owners who had to close due to the pandemic with their reopening costs. Applications for the scheme opened on the 14th August.

Who is eligible?

Business owners in receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance who closed their claim on, or after, the 18th May can apply for the scheme. Businesses which are not liable for commercial rates, and therefore which cannot be considered for the COVID-19 Business Restart Grant or other re-opening grants, are also eligible.

Additional eligibility requirements ask that applicants:

  • Are fully tax and PRSI compliant
  • Employ less than 10 people
  • Have an annual turnover of less than €1million

What costs are eligible? (this is not an exhaustive list – further inquiries should be directed to your local Enterprise Office)

The Department states that eligible costs must be related to the restart of an applying business. Costs incurred since 13th March can be included in applications and include the following areas:

• Capital costs incurred for the purchase of equipment including signage and PPE

• Repairs, maintenance, and installation of safety measures

• Business training, mentoring and coaching

• Advertising and marketing

• Salaries (accompanied by payslips where the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme is not payable)

• Vehicle running costs including fuel

• Accountancy and related services, and legal advice

• Public liability and indemnity insurance costs

What costs are not eligible? (not an exhaustive list)

  • Van insurance
  • Building/premises rental costs
  • Cost of travel (airline tickets, business trips, foreign travel, conferences)
  • Insurance (except public liability)
  • Personal clothing and uniforms (except protective clothing)
  • Professional development programmes and membership fees arranged by professional and regulatory bodies
  • Purchase of any type of vehicle
  • Renovations to premises (not owned by the jobseeker)
  • Stock-in-trade
  • Training or education other than that specified
  • Utility costs (electricity, water supply, communications such as telephone and broadband), connection or supply and local authority rates

Where to apply

Applicants can download the COVID-19 ESG 1 application form and return it their local Intreo Centre. Applicants are asked to retain all receipts and invoices in respect of the payment for a duration of one year from payment date for possible inspection.

To conclude, we can consider the results of the latest Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey from the CSO, which was published recently. The report showed that more than four in ten (44.5%) micro-enterprises have restarting trading up to the 28th of June. That’s very positive news. While it’s apparent that the road to recovery will be a long one for Ireland’s micro-enterprises, it has begun, and these types of measures and supports, which importantly are grant aid rather than loan based, will go a long way to helping our vulnerable business communities get back on their feet.

[1] https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-bii/businessinireland2017/smallandmediumenterprises/

The price of gold surged to over $2,000 per ounce, supported by growing demand for gold in Ireland, the UK and globally as the pandemic takes its toll on economic growth and the finances of nations globally.

According to Mark O’Byrne, the Research Director of GoldCore, Ireland’s longest established gold broker “Gold has surged to new record highs in all major currencies this week including new record highs in euros at €1,720 per ounce due to concerns about the outlook for the Eurozone economy and the euro.”


The BT Blog #6

Guest Blog by Jonathan Hehir, Managing Director of www.insuremyhouse.ie

Top tips to save on your home insurance quote

All mortgage holders are required to take out a home insurance policy, but whether you’re a first time buyer, or are renewing your annual cover, it’s easy to get bogged down in the fine print – when all you really want to know is that you have an appropriate level of cover at a good price…

If this is you – read on…

Did you know that there are 15+ home insurers in Ireland and that their quotes can vary hugely, with price differentials ranging anywhere from €100 to €700 on a typical home? So you can either be a saver or a spender. The only way to know you’re not being ripped off is by scouring the market and getting quotes from every provider. But do people do this?

We commissioned an independent consumer survey earlier this year of 1,000 participants nationwide, which revealed that 76% of people are missing out on savings either by not shopping around at all, or by limiting their choice by going direct to just two or three providers. Surprisingly, young people were much more likely to believe “loyalty” pays, an assumption which costs money, with 21% of 25-34 year-old respondents saying they “stay loyal” and stick with the same provider year on year.

To see just how much you could be spending, or saving, just look at three typical home insurance cases and compare the most expensive price quotes with the cheapest in the market. The differences are staggering.

In one case of insurance for a buy-to-let property, one particular insurer was charging over €700 more than the cheapest provider on the market. In a separate case of a typical family home, the most expensive premium quoted was three times greater than the least expensive.

Follow these 4 steps and you’ll definitely save yourself money:

  1.  Shop Around: If you do nothing else – do this!
  2. Secure Your Home: Most insurers will offer discounts for people with alarms and/or monitored alarm systems. If you have one of these be sure to inquire whether any discounts apply. A monitored alarm could reduce premiums by up to 25%. While these may have been expensive a few years ago the cost of alarm monitoring has reduced significantly so may be worth looking into
  3. Check Policy ‘Add-ons’ – extras like accidental damage are often costly and not always necessary. There’s little point in specifying valuable items such as iPads and bicycles if you opted for a higher excess, say €500
  4. Increasing the Excesses on your policy will invariably reduce the cost of your premium. However, you need to ensure that you don’t end up having to pay out a fortune in the event of a claim

At a time when every penny counts, looking at your regular, annual expenditure is a worthy pursuit to save yourself some money – remember home insurance is one of those areas where you can pay a lot or a little for the same product.


The BT Blog #5

Guest Blog: Covid Compliance measures

by Michael Kavanagh, CEO of the Association of Compliance Officers of Ireland (ACOI)

While many businesses throughout the country have returned to work in one guise or another, the sticky issue of compliance is taking center stage in the challenge to keep them open, as well as to re-start those businesses, institutions, and organisations that have yet to open in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Pre-Covid-19, corporate compliance might have been seen by many as simply ‘ticking a box’ and as a purely bureaucratic exercise. However, the Covid crisis has highlighted just how important compliance is and how it underpins the very functioning of an organisation – whether that is on a building site, in a large office space, a manufacturing plant, shop, school or cinema. Going forward, every business, place of work or service provider going forward will need to have a Compliance Officer  – a dedicated, go-to staff member who ensures that any necessary processes and procedures are put in place, and with whom relevant stakeholders or authorities can interact and support in times of need.

In the context of the ongoing public health crisis, the need for and value of dedicated Covid compliance officers has become clear, if businesses are to maintain confidence that they can offer staff, clients and customers a safe working environment. To assist with the safe return to work as per the staged public health framework, the Government published the ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’ in June – designed to assist employers in implementing measures to protect their employees and halt the spread of Covid-19. The protocol will be regularly updated and should be used by all employers to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply with the necessary public health protection measures as identified by the HSE.

 ACOI qualified compliance officers are used to dealing with regulations and implementing plans to ensure adherence to them. So, while this particular situation presents different challenges, the input in terms of the skills necessary to achieve compliance is similar.

The compliance function within an organisation will look different depending on the size and nature of it. However all organisations will need to consider the following areas in coordinating their compliance with the Return to Work protocol over the coming months:

  • Develop a Covid Response Plan: All workplaces, whether customer-facing or not, need to develop a plan for the safe operation of their workspace. The Health and Safety Authority has a downloadable brief which details the policies and practices necessary for employers to meet the Government’s ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’ and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. They also have a comprehensive range of checklists for both employers and employees which will help you ensure you are covering all the key areas and questions which need to be considered and provided for.
  • Develop new policies and procedures: These will be needed in order to deal with a new array of possibilities within the workplace, chief among them being the identification and isolation of workers who show symptoms of Covid-19. Policies around sick leave, and worker flexibility will also need to be revised.
  • Protection and Control Measures to Minimize Risk: These can include

– A form to establish whether workers have any symptoms before returning to work.

– Provision of induction and training on the public health guidelines

– Implementation of temperature testing

  • Hygiene Control: Review and implement strict personal and operational hygiene procedures in order to minimise cross contamination and ensure adherence to current public safety guidelines regarding face coverings, cough etiquette etc.
  • Social Distancing Measures: Employers must provide for physical distancing across all work activities and ensure that workers can operate according to the current physical distance measure of 2 metres.
  • Travel and Business Interactions: Employers must introduce guidelines for any essential work-related trips, and for any necessary face-to-face interaction with clients or contractors.

These measures, while extensive in scope, are definitely there to help and assist. Feedback from some of our 3,000 members is reassuring in that the vast majority of businesses do want to be compliant, though many are having to contend with the financial and logistical implications of doing so. There are a huge number of compliance training courses and instruction out there for all sectors of employment. For the few who do not adhere to the rules, the HSA do have powers to police these measures. However, it is clear that helping businesses to comply is the overall aim. I believe that a collaborative and unified approach can be taken by all organisations around the country to try overcome the huge challenges presented by Covid-19, and keep our national and regional economies up and running in as safe a way as we can.

Michael Kavanagh, CEO of the ACOI. (Picture: Sebastian Rutkowski)

Only around one per cent typically switch every year, but the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors (AIMA) says 23% of inquiries to member brokers are about moving loans. Fixed rates are especially popular, with the certainty they bring and there’s good value in three to five-year products. Some lenders, offering over-payment flexibility without penalty, are also proving popular, said the organisation.



The BT Blog #3

Guest Blog:

Why you should take a punt on yourself when it comes to job opportunities

by Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com

As the economy begins to reopen many people are ‘emerging’ from lockdown to find their job situation looking quite different and are realising that new horizons may be on the cards, whether by choice or necessity. Some of us may have been furloughed, which has given us a chance to assess where we are and where we would like to go in our career, and perhaps has lead to the conclusion that we would like to change up our career direction and opt for something new.  There are also many among us facing the task of replacing old employment that no longer exists.  

Whatever the circumstance, a new job or a career change could be on the cards for many in the coming months – but are we selling ourselves short on the jobs market?

When it comes to applying for jobs, people react in different ways. Some might be very confident and punch well above their weight in terms of what position or role they apply for, others will only go for a job if they meet the necessary requirements, while some people will be slow to put themselves forward for any role, such is their lack of confidence in their own abilities.

We recently conducted a survey of over 2,000 of our customers and asked them their views around applying for jobs and how confident or otherwise they felt about their own abilities.

  • 58% of people said they would be hesitant to apply for a new position without having at least 70% of the qualifications and requirements
  • 27% of women and 23% of men felt they would need a whopping 90% or more of the required experience and qualifications before they would apply for a new role

This over-cautiousness might be a misstep, because most employers aren’t as stringent as that – they know that people might have other qualities they could bring to the role.

Taking the plunge into a job search can be daunting, the following are some helpful tips to get the best out of your job hunting:

  • Conduct a personal/skills audit: A great way to re-evaluate yourself when going for a new position, particularly if you’ve been in your current job for a while, is to conduct a skills and attributes audit. This is essentially a review of different practical, vocational, and interpersonal skills which you can list and then rank yourself accordingly. You can also write down your interests, talents, and achievements, as well as personal qualities, and relevant life experience. Reviewing this with a trusted friend or colleague can bring much needed fresh perspective.
  • Do your research: When it comes to choosing an employer, it’s worth considering what level of challenge and input you are looking for in a new role. You might prefer a more established organisation that offers reputation, recognition, and perhaps increased scale of roles and career progression, or you might be more interested in a competitive start-up, which is often a fast-paced and collaborative environment, giving you more scope to shape your role, and indeed the company itself.
  • Take a chance! Within reason, if you feel a job is right for you – and you are right for a job, then take a punt on yourself and apply for it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t get shortlisted for an interview, but regardless of the outcome you will have gained significantly from the application process.
  • Don’t sell yourself short: As an employer I would say that this is one of the most common mistakes people make in interviews. While you might not have 100 or 90 or even 80% of all the attributes set out in the job specification, you might well have other talents and experience that employers would benefit from.

One of the most important learnings the current crisis has exposed, is that no matter what qualifications and previous experience we have, or where we might like to go in our careers, our resilience and adaptability to work in rapidly changing work environments and situations is as incredible as it is valuable. Sometimes it’s the skills and characteristics that we often dismiss as simply ‘who we are’, that can prove to be some of the most important of all in our toolkit – something definitely worth valuing in ourselves as we take brave steps into a new world of work.