I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 126 together.
I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that data is not separately maintained on the enforcement action taken by them against small businesses. However, I am informed that a total of 22,668 certificates in respect of €385m. in unpaid tax liabilities were issued by Revenue to the Sheriffs in the period from 1 January to 31 August 2010 (which is a slight decrease on the same period in 2009). A total of 17,498 businesses that were registered with Revenue ceased trading in the same period. 1,206 of these businesses were companies that have gone into liquidation. Some 30% of the companies that went into liquidation in that period were wound up by their members with no outstanding debts to any creditor. Of the remainder, Revenue initiated legal proceedings that lead to the courts winding up some 36 companies by way of the appointment of a liquidator.
The Revenue Commissioners are charged with responsibility for collection and recovery of a wide range of taxes and duties. The Revenue Commissioners take the decision on what collection and recovery measures should be deployed in any specific case and in what timeframe and are not subject to any direction by me in that regard. I know that Revenue has a strong focus on making sure that everyone complies with their tax and duty responsibilities by paying the right amount and on time. Revenue expects businesses to continue, notwithstanding the difficult economic circumstances in which they are now operating, to maintain a clear focus and organise their financial affairs to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. Revenue is fully determined to take the necessary collection enforcement action, including referral of cases to the Sheriffs, to pursue tax debts from taxpayers that fail to meet their liabilities on time and do not engage fully and honestly with Revenue in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement to return the business to full tax compliance as quickly as possible. I fully support what Revenue are doing in that regard.
I know that Revenue is conscious of the difficult economic and financial climate in this country and how that impacts on business in being timely compliant. Revenue has actively encouraged businesses experiencing particular payment difficulties to work proactively with them when such difficulties start to arise to find an agreed way through those difficulties and quickly restore voluntary timely compliance.
I am aware that the feedback from trade representative and tax practitioner bodies to the work of Revenue in that regard has been positive and is regarded as an effective way of supporting businesses who are disposed to addressing payment difficulties in a positive, realistic and proactive way.