Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (227)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

227. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Finance the volume and value of seizures of smuggled solid fuel to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13752/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that there have been no seizures of smuggled solid fuel to date in 2019. I am assuming that the Deputy, when referring to solid fuel smuggling, is enquiring about the movement of solid fuel into the State from Northern Ireland in the context of Solid Fuel Carbon Tax (SFCT). SFCT is an excise duty that applies to coal and peat when first supplied in the State for use as a fuel. Neither the movement of solid fuel into the State nor the physical presence of solid fuel in the State generate a liability to SFCT. Therefore, there is no smuggling offence, in terms of evasion of SFCT, attaching to solid fuel movements into the State from Northern Ireland.

Where a supplier makes a supply in the State of a quantity of solid fuel, the supply is subject to SFCT and the supplier is accountable for and must pay the tax to Revenue. Where an individual purchases solid fuel from a supplier in another Member State and brings it into the State a SFCT liability does not arise, provided the fuel is for their own private use and they accompany it into the State. If, however, such an individual supplies another person in the State with the fuel, they will have made a first supply and will be liable to account for and pay SFCT.

It is important to point out that European Union Single Market constraints preclude the use of any cross-border controls in relation to the movement of solid fuel into the State from other Member States. Therefore, Revenue has no authority to stop vehicles and physically inspect loads of solid fuel entering the State from Northern Ireland. Similarly, the transportation 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.

SFCT is collected by Revenue on a self-assessment basis. Fuel suppliers must, on a bi-monthly basis, file a return for all first supplies of coal and peat made in the State during the period. They have one month following the end of each SFCT accounting period to file their return and pay the tax due. SFCT law is enforced by Revenue using the full range of compliance interventions and enforcement provisions for self-assessed taxes. This can include sheriff enforcement, civil proceedings through the courts or attachment of third parties. I am advised that to date, Revenue has undertaken actions to enforce approximately €640,000 of solid fuel carbon tax.

As I, and my predecessor, have pointed out before, because of the price differential with Northern Ireland, the collection by Revenue of SFCT is heavily reliant on the regulatory regime covering the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of solid fuels in the State. This regulatory regime is operated by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is enforced by local authorities. This regime, which imposes higher environmental standards on coal in the State than applies in Northern Ireland, enables local authorities to undertake enforcement action to prevent the sale or distribution of coal that does not meet our standards.

I am advised that Revenue and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment are engaged in ongoing discussions on the scope for joint operations to support each organisation’s respective roles in ensuring compliance with SFCT law and environmental regulations relating to the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of solid fuels in the State.