Writtens Answers Nos 78-88

IBRC Liquidation

Pearse Doherty


78. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance under what criteria the special liquidator continues to maintain proceedings on behalf of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation; and if all legal proceedings are assessed in terms of a cost, benefit analysis. [32764/13]

I have been advised by the Special Liquidators that they proceed with cases if they believe there are compelling reasons to do so. The decision to proceed is made on a case by case basis having given full consideration to their duties as Special Liquidators and in particular the maximising of commercial return for the creditors.

National Pensions Reserve Fund Administration

Kevin Humphreys


79. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he has held any discussions with the National Pensions Reserve Fund, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government or Dublin City Council about the use of funds in the NPRF for the funding of the incinerator at Poolbeg, Dublin 4; if he will provide details of any such discussions; if he will outline his position on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32778/13]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund was established in 2001 to meet as much as possible of the costs of social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 when these costs are projected to increase significantly1 due to the ageing of the population.

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission controls and manages the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF). The Commission has discretionary authority to determine the Fund’s investment strategy in accordance with the Fund’s statutory investment policy of securing the optimal total financial return provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the Commission.

The NPRF does not comment on potential investments for reasons of commercial confidentiality. For various reasons not all opportunities considered by the NPRF necessarily result in an investment. Where the NPRF does ultimately make an investment commitment, these are detailed each year in the Portfolio of Investments section of its Annual Report and where significant are announced at the time.

Property Taxation Administration

Brendan Smith


80. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the exact financial liability in 2013 for a person who has a second home in relation to property tax liability and non-principal private residence liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32626/13]

For 2013, a person who owns a second home will have a half year Local Property Tax (LPT) liability on their primary residence and their second home, and a €200 Non-Principal Private Residence Charge (NPPR Charge) on their second home (non-principal private residence).

The NPPR Charge, which is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, is an annual charge of €200 introduced by the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended by the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011. It applies to a residential property which is not used as the owner’s sole or main residence, with limited exemptions. Liability to pay the NPPR Charge is determined on the basis of ownership of the property in question on the "liability date", which is 31 March for 2013.

A liability to LPT is based on the chargeable value (market value) of a residential property on the valuation date and arises where a person owns a residential property on the liability date which is 1 May 2013 for the year 2013 and, for subsequent years, 1 November in the preceding year (that is, the liability date for 2014 is 1 November 2013). Properties valued up to €1 million are organised into valuation bands, with an initial band of €0 to €100,000 and 18 bands from €100,001 to €1 million with a range of €50,000 in each band. Liability is calculated using the mid-point of the appropriate band. For properties valued in excess of €1 million, liability is calculated using the actual chargeable value.

It is therefore not possible to outline the exact LPT and NPPR Charge liability for 2013 for an individual who owns a second home without knowing the chargeable value of the properties.

The inter-Departmental Group chaired by Dr Don Thornhill on the design of a property tax (the “Thornhill Group”) recommended that the NPPR Charge should be absorbed into the LPT as a separate supplemental tax, in addition to the LPT at the standard level applying to non-principal private residences. The Government did not accept this recommendation. The NPPR Charge will be collected in 2013, when a half-year LPT applies, but will be discontinued thereafter. The Government decided to extend the NPPR Charge into 2013 to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for local authorities pending the introduction of the full LPT.

Official Engagements

Kevin Humphreys


81. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a copy of the attendance record book for his Department on 29 September 2008 and 30 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32640/13]

Kevin Humphreys


82. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a copy of the attendance record book for his Department for the month of September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32641/13]

Please find attached as requested, a copy of the attendance record book for September 2008 for my Department. Please note that although the attached is the only record of visits made to my Department during the period in question, other visits may have taken place, especially outside office hours, that may not have been recorded. It should also be noted that the information requested by the Deputy has already been made public through an FOI request to the journalist Tom Lyons in December 2011.

Copies of the attendance record book are available as attachment Q81.pdf and Q82.pdf at the top of the webpage.

Banking Sector Issues

Kevin Humphreys


83. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if his Department or the Central Bank has inquired as to whether there are recordings in the other banks covered by the blanket guarantee surrounding the events before and after the bank guarantee in September 2008; if they have made efforts to secure any such recordings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32642/13]

As the Deputy will be aware banks are required to record phone calls for a variety of reasons. I have not sought access to these recordings as under statute the Garda Síochána is the body responsible for criminal investigations in the State. I understand that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation have requested access to various documents/materials in the banks, including audio recordings, and that the banks have fully complied with these investigations to date. It would be completely inappropriate for the Department of Finance to act outside of its legal powers and interfere with any investigation that could compromise potential future criminal or civil investigations by the bodies responsible under statute. Any phone calls that are relevant around this period may feature as part of the forthcoming banking inquiry for which the legislation is currently before the House. Under the proposed legislation responsibility is assigned exclusively to the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine the requirement for a formal inquiry, the terms of reference of that inquiry and the procedural and organisational aspects of the inquiry.

Banking Sector Issues

Andrew Doyle


84. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance the steps he and his officials are taking regarding ensuring the public and businesses are adequately informed on the Single Euro Payments Area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32650/13]

The aim of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) project is to create a single market for euro-denominated retail payments. SEPA is an EU initiative that will change the way that these payments are processed across Europe. SEPA will allow payment systems users to make euro-denominated retail electronic payments to payees located in any of the participating countries, using a single payment account and a single set of payment instruments (the participating countries are the EU member states, together with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Monaco).

In order to raise awareness of SEPA, a communications campaign entitled “Ready for Sepa” began at the end of January 2013 and this culminates in Autumn 2013. This communications campaign is aimed primarily at businesses as SEPA will predominately affect businesses and the campaign is part-funded by the Department of Finance and the participating banks in Ireland. Advertising has appeared in print media, radio and online. The main message of the campaign is to raise awareness and direct businesses to talk to their bank and software provider to ensure a successful migration to SEPA. More information can be found on the website www.readyforsepa.ie. Coupled with this, all of the Commercial banks are advertising separately in the media and communicating directly with their customers.

SEPA comes into full effect on 1 February 2014 and businesses will need to ensure that payroll, direct debit and accounting systems are SEPA-ready. SEPA will introduce new business rules in relation to retail electronic payments and implement common standards in all participating countries for issuing and executing the underlying payment instructions.

The main change for consumers will be how their bank account will be identified for the purposes of making and receiving payments. The BIC (Bank Identifier Code) and IBAN (International Bank Account Number) will be used instead of the National Sort Code and Account Number that they currently use.

The implementation of SEPA within Ireland is overseen by the National Payments Plan (NPP) Steering Committee, which was established in 2012 to modernise the way payments are made in Ireland. In this regard, an NPP-SEPA sub-group has been formed, consisting of representatives of consumers, businesses, Government and banks.

Banking Operations

Joanna Tuffy


85. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the information available to him regarding the number of persons that signed up for Life Loans with the Bank of Ireland (details supplied); the implications of this product on the lives of the mortgagors concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32651/13]

As the Deputy is aware, I have no statutory function in relation to banking decisions made by individual lending institutions at any particular time. These are ultimately commercial decisions for the management team and board of each bank, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a minority shareholder in Bank of Ireland, I must ensure that the banks are run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure their value as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. A Relationship Framework has been specified that defines the nature of the relationship between the Minister for Finance and each bank. These Frameworks were published on 30 March 2012 and can be found at; http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/.

As I responded to the Deputy in PQ 37717/12, the Life Loan in question was available from February 2001 to November 2010. It provided long term equity release for people over the age of 65. It was a way of unlocking part of the value of your property, without having to move home. The amount a customer could borrow depended primarily on their age and the value of the property in question.

No repayments are required on the loan until one of the following events occur:

1. The property is sold

2. The death of the borrower (In joint cases, the last surviving borrower)

3. The property is vacated for six months or more (In joint cases, by the last surviving borrower).

As the maximum loan to value available was 30% of the house value, the incidence of potential negative equity in these cases is not material.

Notwithstanding this, where a repayment event occurs, the Bank’s recourse is limited to the market value of the property at the point of sale. The borrower or their estate has no liability for any potential shortfall following sale.

I have been informed that as no payments are required during the term of the loan, by definition it cannot accrue arrears and as a result the product does not fall within the scope of the Bank’s MARS strategies.

Tax Rebates

Tom Fleming


86. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will urgently examine a tax refund in respect of fuel for an adapted car in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32660/13]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989 and the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994 (S.I.353 of 1994) provide for permanent relief from the payment of specified maximum amounts of VAT and VRT for persons registered under the scheme and for the repayment of excise duty on fuel.

A claim for repayment of excise duty on fuel for the year ended 25 March 2013 was received from the person (details supplied) on 19 April 2013. This claim was processed and a cheque issued on 9 May 2013. The repayment was based on the total number of litres claimed by the person (1,731) at the relevant excise duty rate of 48 cents per litre. The maximum possible repayment was made in this case.

Money Laundering

Bernard Durkan


87. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has studied recent submissions from the Irish Postmasters' Union in respect of recently announced changes proposed in respect of the anti-money laundering requirements for the purchase of prize bonds, his plans, if any, in respect of AML identification requirements applied to the purchase of prize bonds over €25 in value with particular reference to ensuring against the potential detrimental impact on sale of prize bonds on customers who wish to give them as a gift to friends and-or family members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32662/13]

Dan Neville


112. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance regarding anti-money laundering requirements for prize bonds purchases, his views on issues and concerns raised by the Irish Postmasters' Union, which believes that a requirement to have anti-money laundering identification requirements applied to the purchase of prize bonds over €25 in value is unnecessarily restrictive and will have a detrimental impact on the sale of prize bonds to customers who wish to give them as a gift to family members and friends (details supplied). [32782/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 112 together.

European legislation has been adopted to protect the financial system and certain professions and activities from being misused for money laundering and financing of terrorism purposes. The anti-money-laundering obligations applicable in Ireland derive from the Third EU Money-Laundering Directive. The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 was enacted in July 2010 to transpose the Third Money Laundering Directive (2005/60/EC) and its Implementing Directive (2006/70/EC) into Irish Law.

Part 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 2010 sets out the obligations of “designated persons” in relation to customer identification. One such obligation set out in the Act is the obligation to conduct customer due diligence, prior to the establishment of a business relationship. Customer due diligence refers to the identification of customers and that of any beneficial owners of financial products associated with the customer.

An Post and the Prize Bond Company are deemed to be a “designated person” under the Criminal Justice Act 2010 as they fall within the definition of a “financial institution ”. In light of this, An Post and the Prize Bond Company are required to comply with the relevant provisions of the Act in relation to the sale of Prize Bonds to customers. This means, in practical terms, that customer due diligence must be conducted on all purchases of prize bonds, irrespective of value.

The extent to which any particular person or product may be exempted from the customer due diligence requirements of the Act is determined by reference to the Act having regard to the underlying Directives.

The Central Bank of Ireland has no discretion to exempt certain firms from the requirement to comply with the Act.

In light of the above, I am exploring with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and my colleague the Minister for Justice whether or not exemptions available under the Directives may be applied to small value purchases of prize bonds facilitated on behalf of the State by An Post and the Prize Bond Company.

Banking Sector Investigations

Joanna Tuffy


88. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the Government's plans in relation to investigating the events that led to the guarantee and nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32701/13]

The Government has already indicated that it is determined to uncover the causes of the banking crisis in Ireland which has caused such devastation in the Irish economy and necessitated the bailout from our international partners in late 2010. The key mechanism to achieve this will be the establishment of a formal inquiry into the banking crisis enabling all those involved to come before the inquiry and provide the necessary information in order for the truth to be uncovered.

In this regard, the Government has published the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill which, once enacted, will provide the legal framework for a banking inquiry to be held within the current constitutional parameters. This legislation is being prioritised both in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and in the Office of the Attorney General. I expect that the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill to be enacted before the summer recess.