Written Questions Nos. 133 - 141

Garda Code of Ethics

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

133. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to reports of video footage of a vulnerable person (details supplied) being circulated on social media by a member of An Garda Síochána; the steps she will take on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23270/17]

I am aware of the incident referred to, the tragic events that followed and the concerns which have arisen. I understand that the matter has been referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) who are currently investigating the incident.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 established GSOC to provide independent oversight of alleged misbehaviour by members of the Garda Síochána. The Act stipulates that the Ombudsman Commission is independent in the performance of its functions. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate for me to comment in any way on the GSOC investigation.

Jury Service

Willie Penrose

Question:

134. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will bring forward the enactment of statutory offences for jury misconduct in accordance with the Law Reform Commission's recommendations in 2013 which would enable the Judiciary to direct the attention of jurors to the fact of such an offence and provide appropriate guidance to jurors regarding their role in a criminal trial; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23300/17]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Law Reform Commission published a report on Jury Service in 2013 which includes an examination of the law concerning how individuals are selected for jury service and follows on from the Law Reform Commission’s 2010 Consultation Paper. The report contains 56 recommendations covering a broad range of issues relating to jury service, including that juries be given a specific warning not to access the internet during a trial and that such inappropriate enquiries be made a specific offence. A number of the recommendations have cost implications that require careful evaluation and these issues are being fully considered in my Department with a view to bringing forward proposals for amending legislation in due course.

Probate Applications

Martin Heydon

Question:

135. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if there are significant delays in waiting times for grant of probate applications; if so, the steps she will take to address these delays; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23349/17]

The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. Probate functions are also carried out by County Registrars at District Probate Registries in 14 provincial court offices.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the current waiting time for a grant of representation in the Dublin Probate Office has been reduced to 15 weeks for applications lodged by a solicitor (90% of applications are made via this route) and 28 weeks for personal applications. This has been achieved by a review of business processes within the office and an extra Executive Officer and Higher Executive Officer being assigned to the office. All applications are assessed on the basis of the date on which they are lodged, an approach which provides fairness and equity to all applicants. Priority is given to probate applications where there is a particular urgency or in extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it is open to applicants to bring the matter to the attention of the Probate Office.

Probate applications are also processed at 14 District Probate Registries and waiting times vary across the Registries due to the volume of applications received and the skill sets and operational priorities within the offices. Again, priority is given to probate applications where there is a particular urgency or in extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it is open to applicants to bring the matter to the attention of the District Probate Registry.

The Courts Service has advised that backlogs in the probate system are a cause for concern and that a review of the probate system is being carried out at present. It is anticipated that a report with recommendations for the modernisation of the process will be presented by mid 2017 to the senior management team of the Courts Service and to the Courts Service Board which should further assist in improving waiting times.

Tax Exemptions

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

136. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will include a specific skill (details supplied) in section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to allow the Revenue Commissioners to determine that certain work recognised as having a cultural or artistic merit is exempt from paying income tax in order that the skill meets the criteria for this exemption. [22679/17]

Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 empowers the Revenue Commissioners to make determinations in respect of artistic works in the following categories only:

1. a book or other writing

2. a play

3. a musical composition

4. a painting or other like picture

5. a sculpture

Guidelines were drawn up by the Arts Council and the then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, for determining whether a work which falls within the scope of the activities listed in the section is an original and creative work and whether it has, or is generally recognised as having, cultural or artistic merit and consequently can qualify for the exemption.

As identified by the Minister for Finance, Mr. Charles Haughey TD, in his budget speech in 1969, the policy basis of the artists’ exemption is to provide "further encouragement to the creative artists in our midst and to help create a sympathetic environment here in which the arts can flourish". In light of this policy intent, I do not consider it appropriate to extend the exemption as proposed by the Deputy, as the activity described does not fall into the realm of artistic endeavour.

Disabled Drivers Grant Applications

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

137. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance if a reply will issue to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22690/17]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a reply has issued on the subject.  The substance of the reply is as follows:

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), an exemption from motor tax and a grant in respect of fuel, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities.

To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 and satisfy one of the following conditions:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Scheme and qualifying criteria were designed specifically for those with severe physical disabilities and are, therefore, necessarily precise. 

The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure. Between the Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT foregone, and the fuel grant, the scheme is estimated to have cost of the order of €65m in 2016. This figure does not include the revenue foregone to the Local Government Fund in the respect of the relief from Motor Tax provided to members of the Scheme. 

I recognise the important role that the Scheme plays in expanding the mobility of citizens with disabilities. I have managed to maintain the relief at current levels throughout the crisis despite the requirement for significant fiscal consolidation.  From time to time I receive representations from individuals who feel they would benefit from the Scheme but do not qualify under the six criteria.  While I have sympathy for these cases, given the scale and scope of the Scheme, I have no plans to expand the medical criteria beyond the six currently provided for in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994.

Revenue Commissioners Staff

Michael McGrath

Question:

138. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the details of recruitment campaigns being undertaken or planned for 2017 by the Revenue Commissioners; the positions to be filled; the location of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22702/17]

I am advised by Revenue that they are currently advertising a number of posts.  The campaigns which are currently underway are for Principal Officer in Revenue’s Large Cases Division (Dublin), Librarian (Dublin), Executive Officers (Tax, Audit and Compliance) (Nationwide) and Printers for Revenue’s Print Centre in Dublin. Campaigns for Solicitor (Dublin, Cork and Limerick), Administrative Officer (Compliance and Information Technology) (Dublin and Limerick) and Assistant Principal (Audit and Compliance) (Nationwide) were held earlier this year.

In addition to Revenue open recruitment panels, Revenue also recruits staff from panels established by the Public Appointments Service (PAS). This recruitment is primarily at Clerical Officer level. Assignments have also been made from PAS panels at Executive Officer, Higher Executive Officer and Assistant Principal level in 2017.  

Revenue appointed over 540 staff in 2016 and over 250 so far this year from open recruitment and inter-departmental competitions. The recruitment has been at all levels and across a range of functions including audit & compliance, debt management, international tax, tax and legal professionals, data analysts, economists and information technology experts.

In the preparation for the Estimates of 2015, 2016 and 2017, Revenue made business cases for additional resources, which I fully supported. Over the Budgets of 2015, 2016 and 2017, an increase of 266 (126, 50 and 90) in additional Revenue resources was provided to deal with a wide variety of staffing requirements across audit and compliance functions, debt management functions, international tax, etc. This Government will continue to carefully consider any request by Revenue for additional resources.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

139. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will address a matter (details supplied) with regard to a share merger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22714/17]

I am not in a position to discuss the structure or tax affairs of individual companies. 

In the 2016 Finance Act I introduced the Irish Real Estate Fund (IREF). IREFs are investment undertakings (excluding UCITS) where 25% of the value of that undertaking is made up of Irish real estate assets.

IREFs must deduct a 20% withholding tax on certain property distributions to non-resident investors.  The withholding tax will not apply to certain categories of investors such as pension funds, life assurance companies and other collective investment undertakings.   

The legislation was introduced to address concerns in both the media and in the Dáil regarding the use of collective investment vehicles by international investors to invest in Irish property. International investors had been using the structures to minimise their exposure to Irish tax on Irish property transactions.  The targeted measures introduced in the Finance Act addressed these concerns and have ensured the protection of the Irish tax base.

Revenue Commissioners

Tom Neville

Question:

140. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22719/17]

I am advised by Revenue that the original, and in the case of 2005 and 2006 the revised, Notices of Assessment for the tax years 2001 to 2006, including the assessment to PRSI, were in accordance with the tax returns submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

I am informed that whilst there is a general right to repayment of overpaid taxes, the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 imposes a strict four-year time limit on the making of claims for the tax to be repaid. Unfortunately there is no discretion to allow a repayment or offset of taxes where the claim is received outside the time limit set down in legislation.

I am advised by Revenue that they have referred the matter to the Department of Social Protection to make direct contact with the person concerned to clarify and confirm matters as regards the amount of PRSI paid and the entitlement to the maximum pension.

Tax Collection

Michael Collins

Question:

141. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 263 of 2 May 2017, if the Revenue Commissioners publish figures for uncollected income tax each year; if so, where this information can be found; if it is subject to audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22778/17]

Revenue publishes the total amount of uncollected tax each year in its annual report. The annual reports for each year are available on the Revenue website at http://www.revenue.ie/en/about/publications/annual-reports.html.

The published figures include both the overall debt and the amount of debt that is available for collection after amounts under appeal to the Tax Appeals Commission or that are included in statutory insolvency activity are factored out.

For the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 the overall outstanding debt was €1,695m, €1,812m and €1,944m respectively. The ‘debt available for collection’ amounts for these years were €907m, €823m and €755m of which €373m, €360m and €374m related to Income Tax. These amounts are for the most part collected by Revenue through phased payment agreements with the taxpayers in question or where necessary through the use of debt collection/enforcement sanctions.

The details of the uncollected amounts of tax are provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General each year for examination.