EU Presidency Expenditure

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 164.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 165.

Questions (178)

Seán Fleming

Question:

178. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his final estimate of the cost of Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29679/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The planning, implementation and management of Ireland’s EU presidency has been a major project involving all Government Departments and Offices over a period of approximately two years.In making preparations for the Presidency, there has been a consistent emphasis on delivering a cost-effective programme to a high standard. The budget agreed by Government in December 2011 was in the order of €60 million, with security costs being assessed separately. This is at the lower end of the range of costs incurred by other Member States for recent Presidencies and is considerably less than the budget for Ireland’s last Presidency in 2004. The final cost of the 2013 Presidency will not be fully known until costs incurred during June have been met.

However, on the basis of information available at this point, including from other Departments, I anticipate that the final costs will be well within the original budget. A full report on the Presidency is being prepared and will include detailed information on costs.

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 164.
Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 165.

Credit Review Office Remit

Questions (181)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

181. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Finance if the credit review office limit of appeals could be raised from €500,000 to €3 million in order to better assist small and medium enterprises particularly seeking to re-finance debt from institutions that are in wind down mode; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30092/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Deputy will be aware that the Credit Review Office recently published its eleventh report in which the Credit Reviewer stated that he had asked that the threshold be raised to €3 million. The Deputy will also be aware that I published an assessment of the Credit Review Office late last year which contained a number of recommendations to make the CRO more effective in encouraging and increasing the supply of credit to SMEs. One of these recommendations was to increase the resources of the CRO and I sanctioned the appointment of additional reviewers at budget time last year. The recent CRO report also stated that the procurement process for additional reviewers has been completed and that the implementation of the remaining recommendations in the assessment within the CRO’s remit would follow the training of these reviewers.

In looking at the implementation of other recommendations, my officials have also been considering where the CRO should fit into the overall strategy of ensuring credit availability for viable SMEs and the level of the threshold is one aspect of this strategy. I expect that the deliberative process on the strategy will conclude shortly.

Fuel Laundering

Questions (182)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

182. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if it is possible to have the sale of washed diesel stopped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30641/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners who have responsibility for the collection of mineral oil tax that they are very aware of the threat that fuel laundering and the sale of laundered product poses both to the exchequer and to legitimate businesses. Revenue takes every opportunity to remind motorists and the public generally that, in addition to its impact on the exchequer and legitimate trade, they should be aware of the risks posed to their vehicles by using laundered fuel and the fact that sourcing fuel in this way is funding criminal activity. Revenue has made action against fuel laundering one of its priorities and is implementing a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem. This strategy included strengthening the licensing conditions for auto-fuel traders in 2011 and the introduction of a new licensing system for marked fuel traders last October. In addition, since January, all licensed fuel traders are required to make electronic returns to Revenue of their fuel transactions each month. These measures are designed to make it difficult for fuel criminals to source marked fuel for laundering and to get laundered product onto the market. Analysis of the monthly returns of fuel trading will enable Revenue to identify suspicious or anomalous fuel transactions and patterns of distribution. Analysis of the first few months of returns data is well advanced and traders involved in suspicious activity will be investigated and if they are unable to account properly for the source or disposal of product will face revocation of their licence, tax assessment and prosecution where appropriate.

In addition, Revenue and HM Revenue and Customs in the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2012 on a joint approach to finding a more effective marker for use in both jurisdictions. A number of proposals for a new marker submitted in response to an Invitation to Make Submissions are currently being evaluated. The outcome of this process is expected later this year.

Revenue, in co-operation with other law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, continues to intensify enforcement action against fuel fraud. Revenue’s strategy has already yielded significant results to date. In the past two years 97 filling stations throughout the State were closed for breaches of licensing conditions. Since the beginning of 2010, over 2.5 million litres of fuel have been seized and 29 oil laundries detected and closed down, including five oil laundries in 2013 to date.

I strongly support the work of Revenue in tackling diesel laundering and a critical step in tackling this trade is to close down the supply chain and the retail outlets that sell washed diesel. Revenue has worked closely with the industry in developing and implementing its current strategy.

The legitimate retail trade can also contribute to closing down this illegitimate trade by providing information on the outlets that are selling washed diesel. Revenue chairs the Hidden Economy Monitoring Group (HEMG) and has established Regional sub-groups of the HEMG to facilitate the reporting of information by traders through their representative associations. Retailers who suspect or have evidence that laundered diesel is being sold in their area should report this through their representative associations to the Revenue. Such reports are treated as confidential and are fully investigated by Revenue.

Tax Code

Questions (183)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

183. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to take further steps on the treatment of private pensions, specifically with regards to the way they are taxed, for example, if he will look for pension tax reliefs to be standardised; for the earnings ceiling to be further capped; or consider increasing the imputed distribution rates from super pensions such as ARFs. [30652/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I indicated in my Budget 2013 speech that further changes in the tax treatment of supplementary pension arrangements for higher earners would be introduced next year. The examination and consideration of the various options for change are ongoing. I made clear in my Budget 2013 speech, however, that tax relief on pension contributions would continue at the marginal rate of tax. Alterations to the annual limits for tax-relieved pension contributions which are governed by an annual earnings limit in conjunction with age-related percentage limits would be one option for change, among others.

As regards Approved Retirement Funds or ARFs, I should point out that ARFs are not super pensions. ARFs represent a flexible alternative to the purchase of a pension annuity in drawing down pension benefits at retirement. ARFs are available, subject to certain conditions, to all individuals with Defined Contribution pension arrangements and my understanding is that the bulk of ARF owners have ARFs of modest value.

An annual imputed distribution rate of 5% applies to ARFs with asset values of €2 million or less and to ‘vested’ Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs where benefits have commenced) on the same basis. A higher imputed distribution rate of 6% applies to ARFs and/or ‘vested’ PRSAs with asset values of more than €2 million. The deemed or imputed distribution measure is designed to encourage draw-downs from ARFs and ‘vested’ PRSAs so that they are used, as intended, to fund a stream of income in retirement in the same way as a retirement annuity. The measure, in itself, does not give rise to significant tax revenues as it does not apply to actual draw-downs from ARFs and ‘vested’ PRSAs, which are taxed in the normal way. Moreover, increasing the annual percentage notional distribution for ARFs and "vested" PRSAs as suggested in the question would further increase the risk that the retirement income derived by the owners from such funds could be depleted before death.

Tobacco Smuggling

Questions (184)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

184. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Finance the number of successful prosecutions that have been made for the supply of illegally obtained cigarettes and tobacco; the average length of sentence or fine for any successful prosecution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30842/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they view the illicit trade in tobacco products as a very serious matter and that combating this illegal activity is a high priority for them. Their “Strategy on Combating the Illicit Tobacco Trade 2011-2013” includes a wide range of measures that are designed to identify and target those involved in the supply or sale of illicit tobacco products, with a view to seizing the illicit products and prosecuting those involved. The penalties that may be imposed where a person is convicted for the smuggling or selling of illicit products are set down in, respectively, section 119 of the Finance Act 2001 and section 78 of the Finance Act 2005. The specific penalty to be imposed in a particular case is a matter for the Courts.

Details of the penalties imposed in respect of tobacco-related convictions during 2012, and this year to 31 May, are set out in the following tables:

Convictions for Tobacco Smuggling

-

2012

2013 (to 31 May)

Conviction on indictment

7

1

Custodial prison sentences

7 (in 5 instances the sentence was suspended)

1 (the sentence was suspended)

Range of custodial sentences

2 months to 3 years

1 sentence of 3 years

No. of cases in which fine imposed

2

-

Average fine

€2,500

-

Summary Convictions

50

17

Custodial prison sentences

19 (in 2 instances the sentence was suspended)

11 (in 3 instances the sentence was suspended)

Range of custodial sentences

6 days to 10 months

28 days to 6 months

No of cases in which fine imposed

35

10

Average fine

€2,530

€2,600

Convictions for Keeping or Sale of Tobacco

-

2012

2013 (to 31 May)

Conviction on indictment

15

1

Custodial prison sentences

15 (In 8 instances the sentence was suspended, and in instance part of sentence was suspended)

-*

Range of custodial sentences

18 months to 3 years

-

No. of cases in which fine imposed

-

-

Summary Convictions

60

22

Custodial prison sentences

6 (In 5 instances the sentence was suspended)

6 (In 4 instances the sentence was suspended)

Range of custodial sentences

1 day to 6 months

4 months to 10 months

No of cases in which fine imposed

54

19

Average fine

€2,834

€2.736

Notes

*Sentence of 240 hours of community service imposed.

Tobacco Smuggling

Questions (185)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

185. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Finance the number of cigarettes a person may legally bring into this jurisdiction; if any consideration has been given to amend the limit on the amount that may be brought in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30843/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners, who have responsibility for the collection of tobacco products tax, that, in accordance with section 104(2) of the Finance Act 2001, tobacco products tax is not chargeable on cigarettes that are bought tax-paid by a private individual in another member state of the European Union, provided that the cigarettes are for the individual’s own personal use and not for commercial purposes. The cigarettes must be personally transported and accompanied into the State by that individual. This provision is in accordance with article 32 of Council Directive 2008/118/EC of 16 December 2008 concerning the general arrangements for excise duty and repealing Directive 92/12/EEC. Applying a limit to the amount of cigarettes that can be brought in from another member state depends on whether the cigarettes are for an individual’s own private use or for commercial purposes and this falls to be determined in accordance with criteria set out in Part 4 of the Control of Excisable Products Regulations 2010. These include the reasons given by the person for having control or possession of the cigarettes and the quantity involved. In accordance with EU law, the indicative guide level as to what constitutes a quantity consistent with personal use is set at 800 cigarettes.

A maximum of 200 cigarettes may be brought into the State from outside the EU or from territories where EU rules on VAT and excise duties do not apply, such as the Canary Islands.

IBRC Account Holders

Questions (186)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

186. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the way persons who have business loans and mortgages with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation in liquidation which are performing will be accommodated in order that they may re-finance their borrowings with other lending institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30098/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been advised by the Special Liquidators that all Borrowers can re-finance their borrowings with other lending institutions however there will be no write down of the debt outstanding. I have been informed by the Special Liquidators that the window in which Borrowers are allowed to re-finance their loans 100% will remain open until such time as the loan is sold in the sales process.