Departmental Contracts

Questions (75)

Joan Collins


75. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Finance further to a number of questions in relation to the amount spent by all Departments on outsourcing cleaning and security that were requested in the months of February from this Deputy, if he has costed the amount that would be saved by the Departments if this work was to be done through direct labour by the Departments; and if not, if he will initiate such an exercise and publicly release it within a timeframe. [29567/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

In response to the Deputy’s question my Department provides shared accommodation services to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Security services in respect of buildings occupied by staff of either Department are not outsourced. Cleaning services for buildings occupied by staff of both Departments are outsourced. My Department is in the process of completing a tender process in relation to the provision of cleaning and maintenance services to the Departments. As with the provision of all services achieving best value for money is Department’s main priority.

The tender prices on offer compare favourably when compared to the estimated costs such as wages, pension and other costs associated with recruiting sufficient staff to carry out the cleaning requirements in relation to buildings occupied by both Departments.

Expenditure on outsourced cleaning services in other Departments is a matter for each Department and is subject to oversight not by the Department of Finance but rather the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

NAMA Debtors

Questions (76)

Michelle Mulherin


76. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm if surveillance is being used by the National Assets Management Agency, the former Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and-or State-funded banks, of developers or individuals who owe money to these institutions, including the interception of communications such as telephone/mobile phone calls, phone and text messages and emails; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29430/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been informed by PTSB that they do not use surveillance. I have been informed by AIB that it does not undertake activity of the nature outlined in pursuing borrowers. The Bank can also confirm that it complies with its obligations under Data Protection legislation in relation to information which they hold on their customers. In addition the Bank complies with all legal requirements in relation to its collections activities where pursuing debts owed to the Bank by its Borrowers.

I have been informed by the Special Liquidators that as part of normal business practise telephone calls to/from IBRC (in Special Liquidation) are recorded for training and quality purposes. Further, emails to/from IBRC (in Special Liquidation) are monitored as part of the Data Protection policy. Other than the above, the Special Liquidators are not aware of the interception of communications of developers or individuals who owe money to IBRC (in Special Liquidation).

I have been informed by NAMA that it carries out asset searches as appropriate in order to obtain assurance about the veracity of a debtor’s statement of affairs. NAMA expects its service providers to operate fully within the law and the Agency is not aware of any instance of any form of interception of any form of communication by them.

Vehicle Registration Issues

Questions (77)

Andrew Doyle


77. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the non-disability schemes for remission of the vehicle registration tax available to organisations that provide transportation for cancer patients that do not fall into the category of disability that are available through the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29451/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, to those who meet certain disability criteria. The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. There is no other scheme which provides remission of VRT to organisations or persons who do not fulfill the disability criteria.

Tax Credits

Questions (78)

Robert Troy


78. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the reason couples who live together are assessed jointly for social welfare but are still unable to transfer tax credits with Revenue, based on their cohabitation. [29454/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The position is that where a couple is cohabiting, rather than married or in a civil partnership, they are treated as separate and unconnected individuals for the purposes of income tax. Each partner is a separate entity for tax purposes and, therefore, cohabiting couples cannot file joint assessment tax returns or share their tax credits and tax bands in the same manner as married couples. The basis for the current tax treatment of married couples derives from the Supreme Court decision in Murphy vs. Attorney General (1980), which held that it was contrary to the Constitution for a married couple, both of whom are working, to pay more tax than two single people living together and having the same income.

However, a cohabiting couple where both partners are working get, in total, the same tax credits as a married couple or couple in a civil partnership (i.e. €3,300). In addition, the same amount of income is subject to tax at the 20% rate (i.e. €32,800 each). This equates to the €65,600 threshold in the case of a married couple or couple in a civil partnership.

If both cohabitants earn in excess of the standard rate band (i.e. €32,800), then they both pay tax at 41% on any income in excess of €32,800. Married couples or couples in a civil partnership where both individuals work get the same treatment.

The difference between the two groups in relation to income tax is the ability of married couples or civil partners to transfer certain tax credits such as the personal/married credits and part of the tax bands, i.e. the tax band of €65,600 available to married couples or couples in a civil partnership with two incomes in 2013 is transferable between spouses up to a maximum of €41,800. This is of benefit where one of the individuals earns less than the 20% tax threshold of €32,800 or where one of the individuals has no income.

The treatment of cohabiting couples for the purposes of social welfare is primarily a matter for the Minister for Social Protection. However, it is also based on the principle that married couples should not be treated less favourably than cohabiting couples. This was given a constitutional underpinning following the Supreme Court decision in Hyland v Minister for Social Welfare (1989) which ruled that it was unconstitutional for the total income a married couple received in social welfare benefits to be less than the couple would have received if they were unmarried and cohabiting.

Tax Reliefs Availability

Questions (79)

Pat Deering


79. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance the changes that are being considered to the reliefs available for the transfer of family farms. [29464/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I take it the question raised by the Deputy refers to the transfer of family farms from one generation to the next. Specific tax reliefs are provided where farms are passed on from one generation to the next. These reliefs include Capital Acquisitions Tax ("CAT") agricultural relief, Capital Gains Tax ("CGT") relief on transfer of farms to children and Stamp Duty Relief on family transfers and transfers to young trained farmers.

Preparations for Budget 2014 and Finance Bill 2014 have commenced. It would not be appropriate to comment on what changes, if any, are being considered in this area nor any other area.

Pension Provisions

Questions (80)

Finian McGrath


80. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the pension levy. [29508/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The pension fund levy applies at a rate of 0.6% per annum to the market value, on the valuation date, of assets under management in pension funds and pension plans approved under Irish tax legislation. The levy will operate for a period of 4 years only (2011 to 2014) and the legislative provisions giving effect to the levy (section 4 of Finance (No 2) Act 2011) were specifically drafted to reflect this. I confirmed in my Budget 2013 Speech that the levy will not be renewed after 2014.

Although not formally ring fenced for a specific purpose, the moneys raised from the pension fund levy are being used to pay for the Government's Jobs Initiative introduced in May 2011. The measures introduced as part of the Jobs Initiative include a new 9% VAT rate on certain activities, the halving of the lower rate of PRSI and small amounts of additional current and capital expenditure.

The implementation of a jobs and growth strategy is a key priority of the Government. The measures announced in the Jobs Initiative are aimed at assisting in employment generation – providing opportunities for those who are out of work, to restore public morale and confidence in the economy and encourage spending by consumers.

The chargeable persons for the levy are the trustees or other persons (including insurance companies) having the management of the assets of the pension schemes or plans. The payment of the levy is treated as a necessary expense of a pension scheme and the trustees or insurer, as appropriate, are entitled where needed to adjust current or prospective benefits payable under a scheme to take account of the levy. It is up to the trustees to decide whether and how the levy should be passed on and who should be impacted and to what extent, given the particular circumstances of the pension schemes for which they are responsible.

However, the legislation also includes safeguards aimed at ensuring that benefits payable, either currently or prospectively to any member, are adjusted in such a way that the reduction in value of those benefits shall not exceed 0.6% of the market value of the assets accounting for the scheme’s liabilities to that member.

I am conscious of the concerns of pension scheme members about the impact of a levy in circumstances where the pensions sector, in common with other sectors in our economy and society, is finding the current economic and financial environment very challenging.

However, much of the value of pension funds is attributable to the rolled up value of generous tax reliefs that pension savings have historically been granted and continue to receive. To the extent that these pension funds are represented by investments outside the State, the State does not get the benefit from these investments. It does not imply that if the pension fund were invested in the State or in Irish Government bonds that they would not be levied.

The purpose of the pension fund levy is to improve the economic environment by providing the means to encourage job creation in areas of our economy most likely to deliver that employment quickly.

Revenue Commissioners Investigations

Questions (81)

Maureen O'Sullivan


81. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 128 of 15 May 2013, if he will investigate the registered charity (details supplied) and the political donation made as revealed in the their financial statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29546/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The investigation of any registered charity is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. In addition, I am advised by Revenue that, for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality, it cannot comment on the tax affairs of individual bodies. However, Revenue has assured me that bodies that are granted charitable tax exemption under Section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are subject to reviews to ensure that they abide by the terms of the exemption. These reviews include detailed examination of all relevant expenditure including any donations made.

Where donations are found to have been made, Revenue must determine and be satisfied that the expenditure was in accordance with the terms of the charitable tax exemption and that it clearly related to the charitable objectives of the particular body.