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Illicit Trade

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 29 January 2019

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Questions (161)

Brendan Smith


161. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to implement measures to assist compliant household fuel merchants facing difficulties due to the illegal importation of products resulting in a price differential caused by smuggling and the imposition of a carbon tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3827/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Solid fuel carbon tax commenced in May 2013 and the current rates per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted are €52.67, €36.67, €17.99 and €27.99 respectively for coal, peat briquettes, milled peat and other peat. Annual net receipts for solid fuel carbon tax amounted to €25.3 million in 2018. Approximately 75% of solid fuel carbon tax yield relates to coal.

Revenue has responsibility for administering this tax and, as it does with all taxes and duties, takes a risk-focused approach in its deployment of resources on compliance activities. Solid fuel carbon tax is collected by Revenue on a self-assessment basis, and compliance with the law is enforced using the full range of compliance interventions and enforcement provisions for self-assessed taxes.

Liable fuel suppliers must file a return and pay for each bi-monthly period by the last day of the following month. Where suppliers do not submit returns by the due date, Revenue will issue an estimate of the tax due. The estimate is the amount of tax that Revenue will pursue if a supplier does not complete and file their return. If a taxpayer fails to pay the amount due, including any debt for which an estimate has issued, Revenue may refer the debt for enforcement action. This can include sheriff enforcement, civil proceedings through the courts or attachment of third parties. I am advised that, as of November 2018, Revenue has undertaken actions, including sheriff enforcement, civil proceedings through the courts or attachment of third parties, to enforce approximately €640,000 of solid fuel carbon tax.

Currently, there is no carbon tax on domestic solid fuel in Northern Ireland. This factor, combined with that jurisdiction's lower VAT rate on solid fuel and currency fluctuations, can give rise to significant price differentials for solid fuel between this State and Northern Ireland.

European Union Single Market constraints preclude the use of any cross-border movement controls in the administration of solid fuel carbon tax. Therefore, Revenue has no authority to stop vehicles and physically inspect loads of solid fuel. Similarly, the transport or possession of solid fuel that originated in Northern Ireland are not, in themselves, Revenue offences, and Revenue's officers have no authority to challenge such transportation or possession.

As I, and my predecessor, have pointed out before that the collection of solid fuel carbon tax is heavily reliant on the regulatory regime covering the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of solid fuels in the State. This regulatory regime imposes higher environmental standards on coal in the State than applies in Northern Ireland.

The regime is operated by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is enforced by local authorities, who have powers to inspect premises and vehicles being used for the sale and distribution of solid fuel, collect samples of coal to check for adherence to environmental standards and to prosecute traders involved in selling illicit coal. The Regulations also provide for the establishment of a register of coal suppliers by the Environmental Protection Agency.

I am advised that Revenue is in contact at present with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to discuss the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for solid fuel and to explore how Revenue could support the Department to improve matters in light of continuing concerns that solid fuel sourced from Northern Ireland is getting onto the market here. I understand that contacts are ongoing with a view to undertaking a number of joint operations and to exploring the scope for follow-up action by Revenue in relation to persons found to be in breach of environmental regulations.