Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Consolidation of Finance Acts.

1.

asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the highly technical nature of each annual Finance Act, he will undertake a review of the Income Tax Act, 1967, with a view to introducing an updated consolidated Income Tax Act, 1987, to mark the 20 years since a comprehensive Income Tax Act and to update the Tax Act by the enormous changes which have taken place over the 20 years.

It is accepted that consolidation of the Income Tax Act, 1967, with the related provisions of subsequent Finance Acts is overdue. There are now provisions in 25 Finance Acts — including the 1986 Bill when enacted — to be consolidated with the 1967 Act.

I am finding it difficult to understand the Minister.

I think the Deputy feels the Minister is going a little too fast.

Not so flippant.

Sometimes Deputies here complain that we take too few questions at Question Time. I am endeavouring to get through as much business as possible.

This is a serious question from Deputy G. Mitchell.

It is accepted that consolidation of the Income Tax Act, 1967, with the related provisions of subsequent Finance Acts is overdue. There are now provisions in 25 Finance Acts — including the 1986 Bill when enacted — to be consolidated with the 1967 Act. Some of those Acts are of major size and complexity embodying many new concepts and provisions while a significant number of provisions were also repealed. Ideally the process of consolidation of the Income Tax Acts should also embrace the Corporation Tax Act, 1976, and later enactments. The Capital Gains Tax Act, 1975, and later provisions relating to the taxation of capital gains also require to be consolidated.

It will be clear that a considerable volume of work would be involved in the consolidation of the provisions mentioned and thus substantial deployment of highly trained staff to undertake the task would be required in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, on whom this work would devolve. As the Deputy will be aware, the resources of trained staff available to the Revenue Commissioners are already under-strength and are overstretched in coping with current work. The embargo on staff recruitment does not permit this position to be remedied in the short term.

The Revenue Commissioners are acutely aware of the need for consolidation and are taking every opportunity which arises to further the preparatory work necessary. From the nature of the undertaking it will be appreciated that a large input will be required from senior, experienced staff and the heavy legislative programme of recent years has heretofore rendered it impossible to allocate such staff to this work.

Nevertheless, as a first step a target date for the introduction of the new consolidated Income Tax Act has been established as the end of the year 1987 but reaching this target will depend to a critical extent on the sustained availability of suitable staff.

I note that the Minister referred to the Capital Gains Tax Act, 1975, and to the Corporation Tax Act, 1976, which are about ten years old only. In view of the fact that the Income Tax Act to which the question relates will be 20 years old next year and that practitioners or persons interested in that Act would have to go through approximately 20 inches of legislation — taking the Finance Acts together — would the Minister do everything in his power to ensure that the 1987 consolidation date is achieved?

Within the limits I have indicated, I will.

Within the umbrella of the new, updated consolidated Income Tax Act, which is so necessary — as Deputy G. Mitchell has said — would the Minister confirm that the recommendations of the Commission on Income Taxation will be taken into account? What progress is the Minister making with regard to whatever examination is taking place in his Department on those recommendations?

That is an interesting question but a separate one.

I appreciate that, but would the Minister not care to elaborate in view of the importance of the matter?

I am interested merely in rendering the legislation readable.