Social welfare legislation specifies that the PPS number can only be used by specified bodies and agents acting on their behalf and only for the purposes of public service transactions. Provision is also made for sharing a person's PPS number between specified bodies.
The PPS number is a unique identifier. It was introduced in 1998 and is used to provide access to an important range of public, civic and other services. It replaced the old revenue and social insurance, RSI, number, which had been introduced in 1979 for engagements between individuals and Revenue or the then Department of Social Welfare. The introduction of the PPS number made it accessible by specified bodies, rather than only by Revenue and the Department, in transacting public services.
At its core, the PPS number is a device to assist in and enhance the efficiency of the provision of public services for the public. Such public services vary greatly. Thus, the PPS number is used widely, for example, by all employers in their transactions with Revenue and the Department in the delivery of social welfare payments and services, including dental, optical and audiological services, mainly provided by private practitioners, as well as financial institutions and the health and education sectors.
It is an offence for persons other than specified bodies, their agents or those to whom the number refers to use PPS numbers or otherwise seek their disclosure. A person convicted of such an offence is liable to a fine not in excess of €1,500, or, on conviction, a fine not exceeding €25,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both.
The Department is committed to protecting and facilitating the use of PPS numbers in accordance with the law. In this regard, it monitors compliance with the legislation among the specified bodies and deals with identified and reported cases. The collection, storage and use of PPS numbers are subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts.