Departmental Data

Questions Nos. 171 and 172 answered with Question No. 137.

Questions (170)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

170. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of complaints submitted to his Department in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of appeals made with respect to the outcome of such complaints; the number referred to the Office of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13782/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

From time to time my Department receives comments from members of the public giving feedback on how we could improve our services both at home and at our 82 Missions abroad. We are committed to constantly improving how we conduct our business and to ensuring that our staff across all offices, both in Ireland and our global network of Embassies and Consulates, act in a highly professional manner at all times.

Within my Department, the Passport Service received more than 733,000 and 780,000 passport applications in 2016 and 2017 respectively.  In 2018, in excess of 862,000 applications were received. With this volume of applications, the Passport Service deals with the highest number of customers of any of the Divisions within my Department. 

The Passport Service has a formal complaints procedure in place to allow citizens to give feedback on the quality of the service they receive. The Passport Service aims to investigate and respond to complaints within 20 working days.

The number of complaints received for the years requested is detailed below:

 Year 

Number of complaints

 2017

 92

 2018

 118

 2019

 24*

*To February 28th

 A complainant who is not satisfied with the response from the Department may choose to refer the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman for the consideration of that office.  The number of complaints referred to the Ombudsman of the complaints noted above is detailed below:

Year

Number of complaints referred to the Ombudsman

 2017

 3

 2018

 10

 2019

 3*

*To February 28th 

Questions Nos. 171 and 172 answered with Question No. 137.

Departmental Funding

Questions (173)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

173. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the funding provided to an organisation (details supplied) from 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14163/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Amnesty International Ireland is the Irish branch of the international organisation, Amnesty International. Through human rights education, Amnesty International Ireland aims to empower the next generation to develop the skills and attitudes that promote equality, dignity, and respect in the community, society and worldwide.

Irish Aid, through its development education programme, has provided funding to Amnesty International Ireland to support projects in development education. In particular, the “Rights Sparks” project was a continuous professional development (CPD) course for primary school teachers in development education and human rights education which was supported by Irish Aid from 2011 to 2016.

Details of the funding amounts provided to Amnesty International Ireland in the years 2011-2016 are set out below:  

Year

Amount €

Grant Type

2011

€47,000

Development Education

2012

€77,531

Development Education

2013

€50,000

Development Education

2014

€50,000

Development Education

2015

€45,000

Development Education

2016

€40,000

Development Education

Humanitarian Aid

Questions (174)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

174. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to reports by an organisation (details supplied) of severe malnutrition in refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres particularly in the case of children; the way in which the interception of those attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea and returning those refugees and migrants to these detention centres is justified; if he has made representations to have food items recognised as part of EU funding for the EU Trust Fund for Africa, which aims to improve conditions for detainees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14229/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am deeply troubled by the grave human rights abuses that migrants and refugees are reported to be suffering in Libya, in particular the persistent abuses that have been reported in Libyan detention centres by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and others.

At the Foreign Affairs Council in December, the EU committed to continue working with the Libyan authorities to improve conditions for migrants and refugees, by ensuring aid reaches those in need of protection, and with a view to overcoming the current system of detention. The European Union recognises that conditions in Libyan detention centres are a matter of great concern and this informs the approach taken in designing programmes funded through the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF).

The EU is providing support to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, including with primary medical assistance. The focus of EUTF-funded actions in detention centres run by the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) is two-fold: improving conditions for detainees and assisting detainees with voluntary humanitarian repatriation to their countries of origin. The EUTF is supporting the provision of emergency medical and life-saving services to detained migrants, including psycho-social support. Support is provided for improving sanitary and hygiene conditions, such as by the provision of toilets, showers, storage/distribution capacity for drinking water and sewerage systems, and for the distribution of essential non-food items to detainees. Importantly, the EUTF also supports the provision of human rights and protection training for detention centre personnel.

Country-level programming for a total of €282 million has been approved to date for Libya. The EU is actively working to provide protection, assistance and alternatives to migrants, refugees, internally displaced people and host communities in different locations inside Libya, in particular inside detention centres, at disembarkation points and in urban settings. All projects are implemented by international partners on the ground, such as UN agencies or EU Member States. For example, almost 90,000 refugees and vulnerable migrants have received medical assistance through EUTF programming. Health care centres, clinics, schools and electrical substations have been rehabilitated or equipped. Because the system of arbitrary detention in Libya must be brought to an end, the EU does not provide food assistance in a systematic manner inside detention centres. The EU is firmly opposed to the institutionalisation of the detention system.

Alternatives to detention centres need to be established, in particular for vulnerable migrants, and Ireland has called on the Libyan authorities to continue to work with the relevant international organisations to make this possible. In the shorter term, oversight in detention centres needs to be vastly expanded and improved. All parties, including those with de facto control of territory, have a responsibility to take steps to eliminate ill-treatment of migrants, and to facilitate UN and other humanitarian access to detention centres. However, continued efforts are required to bring an end to the unacceptable conditions migrants and refugees face in Libya.

During the last year, some progress has been made in alleviating the plight of migrants in Libya. In late 2017, the EU stepped up its cooperation with UN agencies and the African Union to accelerate returns from Libya for those migrants who wish to leave, and to establish safe and legal pathways to resettle those who need international protection. This has contributed to the voluntary return of more than 37,000 vulnerable migrants. In early March, the UNHCR carried out its third evacuation of refugees out of Libya this year, bringing the total of those evacuated to over 3,300.

Support to the Libyan Coast Guard through the EUTF is included in the €91.3 million programme of Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management, the first phase of which was adopted in July 2017 and the second in December 2018. This programme provides training, including on human rights, and equipment, notably communication and rescue equipment, as well as developing institutional capacity. The programme also aims to ensure that the Libyan authorities comply with human rights standards in Search and Rescue operations. Ireland shares the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UNHCR’s assessment that Libya is not a safe third country. It is for this reason that it is not EU policy to send people back to Libya, but rather to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers or traffickers, so as to prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean.

Regrettably, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to end these abuses. There is a governance vacuum in many areas of the country, and access for international organisations seeking to monitor and alleviate conditions for migrants is restricted in many areas, including in detention centres. Bringing real improvements to the lives of Libyans and migrants, and ensuring an end to human rights abuses, will require restoration of political stability, and a fully functioning and unified government. The EU will continue to work with the UN and others to support and reinforce Libya's sovereign institutions.

While Libya is the epicentre of this crisis, a long-term solution will require further cooperation from states all along migration routes, and the support of regional partners and the international community. Work to reduce poverty in countries of origin, which is one of the main drivers of irregular migratory flows, is at the core of Ireland’s aid programme.

Customs and Excise Staff

Questions (175)

Robert Troy

Question:

175. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the details of the recruitment process for new customs officials. [14164/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

In September 2018, the Government granted approval in principle for the phased recruitment of an additional 600 Revenue staff to meet the challenges posed by Brexit.  Budget 2019 provided Revenue with the funding needed for 270 of the additional 600 staff to be recruited during 2019 to manage an orderly UK withdrawal.

Following a Government decision to give greater priority to the preparations for a No Deal Brexit in December 2018, it was agreed to accelerate Revenue’s recruitment plans. Revenue has appointed over 400 staff from open recruitment and interdepartmental competitions since the start of 2019.   And these staff will have completed their necessary training by 15 April 2019 in preparation for Brexit.

These posts have been filled from open, interdepartmental and internal Revenue competitions, as well as redeployment of staff within Revenue.   An open recruitment campaign for trade facilitation roles was undertaken by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in October 2018, this attracted more than 3,000 applications.  This competition was advertised on the PAS website (publicjobs.ie) and on the Revenue website to ensure that recruitment is from the widest pool of available talent and experience.   Revenue also held 6 internal competitions for existing Revenue staff at Higher Executive Officer, Executive Officer and Clerical Officer level for assignment to trade facilitation roles.  Candidates were selected using methodologies such as on-line testing and competitive interviews to facilitate the identification of the best candidates. Recruitment for appointment to positions in Revenue is subject to the provisions of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act, 2004 and is regulated by the Commission for Public Service Appointments (CPSA) and subject to the CPSA Codes of Practice.    

As serving staff are taking up their new Brexit related positions, Revenue is backfilling the vacancies created through panels of candidates established from its general recruitment activity.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Revenue plans to appoint a further 200 staff during the rest of 2019. This would bring the total additional staff recruited to the 600 staff required to deal with the UK withdrawal from the EU.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Administration

Questions (176, 237)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

176. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman is sufficiently resourced to handle the complaints it receives in a timely manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14486/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

237. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman is sufficiently resourced and staffed to deal with the volume of applications it receives, in view of the fact that some clients are waiting months or even years for their complaints to be heard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14025/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 237 together.

Under section 15(4) of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 the Ombudsman may appoint staff to his office and determine their duties with the approval of the Minister for Finance and the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) commissioned a Workforce Plan 2019-2023 and submitted the Plan to my Department. This plan includes an analysis of the level of resources currently available to the FSPO against both current and predicted future demand for his services.

My officials in the Department of Finance have just concluded their consideration of the best way to ensure that the Ombudsman has the appropriate resources to deal with the workload of his Office following consultations with officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Office of the Ombudsman. In light of this, I have approved a substantial increase in staff in the FSPO which I expect to assist the FSPO in fulfilling its remit to independently resolve complaints against financial services and pensions providers.

Employment Data

Questions (177)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

177. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the details of jobs multiplier models used for employment forecasts; the latest forecast for each year in the 2020 to 2025 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12756/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Department of Finance’s most recent economic forecasts which cover the period 2018-2023 were published in Budget 2019. The table below details the employment growth projections from these forecasts. Overall, employment growth is forecast to be approximately 2.0 per cent on average per annum over the period from 2019 to 2023. Employment is forecast to grow by 2.8 per cent in 2019 and 2.2 per cent in 2020. Over the medium term 2020-2023, employment growth of 1.8 per cent on average per annum is projected.

 

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

Employment growth

2.8

2.2

1.5

1.6

1.7

The Department’s approach to forecasting employment growth entails the application of statistical models and expert judgement. For employment forecasts over the short-term, regard is given to recent employment trends and carryovers, implied quarterly profiles, industry surveys, and economic models where employment growth is linked to the underlying performance of the domestic economy as along with past employment growth. Economic models play an increasingly important role in informing projections over the medium term.

The Department’s next set of economic forecasts for the period 2019-2023 will be published as part of the Stability Programme Update in April 2019.

VAT Rate Application

Questions (178)

Michael McGrath

Question:

178. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when proposals to change the VAT rules will be advanced through the European Union; if defibrillators are liable for VAT at the standard rate; the reason under the current rules defibrillators cannot be charged at one of the two lower rates of VAT; if it will be permissible under the new rules as they are proposed to exempt defibrillators from VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12760/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply.  In accordance with the Directive, defibrillators, other than implantable defibrillators, are liable to VAT at the standard rate, currently 23%. Annex III of the Directive specifies categories of goods and services in respect of which Member States may apply a reduced rate of VAT but as defibrillators are not included in any of those categories there is no discretion for Ireland to apply a reduced rate of VAT to their supply.

In 2016 the Commission published a VAT Action Plan that set a path towards the modernisation of VAT in the EU and, in October 2017, published a proposal, an Impact Assessment and a Communication on the definitive VAT regime. 

Since then, the Commission has published a significant number of legislative proposals in the field of VAT, including one on VAT rates which proposes that Member States would continue to apply a standard VAT rate of at least 15% as well as retaining the option to apply a number of reduced rates and a zero rate.  The purpose of the VAT rates proposal is to allow Member States more flexibility in how they apply VAT rates.  It also allows Member States to maintain reduced rates and certain exemptions and proposes that these will be available to other Member States, ensuring equal treatment.

This proposal has been presented by the Commission to Council Working Party but no detailed discussions have taken place to date. As the Deputy is aware, the proposal must be agreed unanimously by all Member States before being adopted. I have said previously that I expect that such fundamental changes will be the subject of intense discussion and negotiation before legislative changes are adopted and it is not possible at this stage to predict the degree of discretion that will be available to Member States in relation to the rate of VAT on any particular category of goods.   

In the meantime, Irish VAT law must comply with the current VAT Directive and therefore defibrillators remain liable to VAT at the standard rate, currently 23%.

Tracker Mortgage Examination

Questions (179)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

179. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the engagement he has had with a bank (details supplied) regarding 6,000 customers who were denied a tracker mortgage despite a contractual right to one; if he will intervene and extend and-or abolish an imposed deadline for appeals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12813/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

In its capacity as independent regulator of regulated financial service providers and in line with its mandate to ensure that the best interests of consumers are protected, the Central Bank of Ireland launched an industry wide examination of tracker mortgage related issues.  Under this Tracker Examination, lenders were required to conduct a complete review of their mortgage loan books to assess compliance with both contractual and regulatory requirements relating to tracker mortgages and to provide appropriate redress and compensation to customers which were negatively impacted by failings of their lender.  The Government fully supports the Central Bank Tracker Examination and it is a matter for all banks to engage with and carry out their individual examinations in accordance with the requirements of the independent regulator.   

The Central Bank's Tracker Mortgage Examination Framework also requires lenders to set up an independent appeals process to deal with affected customers who are dissatisfied with any aspect of the redress and compensation offer they receive from lenders.  The Central Bank advises that the group of customers referred to by the Deputy have the right if they so wish to avail of this appeals process.  The Tracker Framework also provides that affected customers can accept the offer of redress and compensation from their lender and that if they are unhappy with any aspect of their redress and compensation offer they can still appeal.  The Tracker Examination framework documentation indicates that that the Central Bank expects that impacted customers will be afforded a reasonable period of time (eg a minimum of twelve months) following receipt of the redress and compensation offer to bring any such appeal and it also indicates that individual Appeals Panels have the power to extend the time for the bringing of appeals where the individual circumstances of appeals warrant such an extension.

It is also the position that any customer who is still unhappy with the position following the outcome of the Tracker Examination appeals process still retains the right to bring a complaint to the statutory Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) and/or to initiate Court proceedings within a reasonable period of time from the date of the communication of the determination of the Tracker Examination Appeals Panel.  The FSPO has advised that complaints which have availed of the Tracker Framework independent appeals process, or where the lender has confirmed that the customer is not deemed to be impacted by the Examination, are now being progressed by that Office.

Revenue Commissioners

Questions (180, 181)

John Brassil

Question:

180. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 12 February 2019, the detail of the numerous statutory provisions within the taxes Acts providing for particular treatment for persons with particular needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12819/19]

View answer

John Brassil

Question:

181. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 12 February 2019, the way in which the Revenue Commissioners is subject to parliamentary oversight; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12821/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

In relation to question 12819, it is unclear what particular needs the Deputy is referring to.  I am advised by Revenue that there are a number of measures in the tax code that are aimed at persons with disabilities or particular needs. A high-level overview of some of the substantive provisions across the various tax heads is set out below. However, if the Deputy has a particular case or a particular need in mind Revenue is willing to engage on that particular case or issue.

Reduced rates of VAT and refund orders are provided for in the VAT Consolidation Act 2010. For example, the supply of a range of medical equipment and appliances, which include invalid carriages (excluding mechanically propelled road vehicles), orthopedic appliances, deaf aids, walking frames and crutches are subject to a zero rate of VAT. 

The Value-Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order, 1981, provides, in certain circumstances for the refund of VAT on goods which are aids or appliances and includes goods specially constructed or adapted for use that are purchased for the exclusive use of a person with a disability of a type specified for the purposes of the Order. The provisions of the Order also extend to works carried out on homes to adapt them to make them more accessible for disabled persons.

The disabled drivers and passengers scheme provides relief, subject to qualifying criteria, from Vehicle Registration Tax, VAT and road tax, for persons with disabilities.

Within the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003 (CATCA), the following measures are provided:

- Sections 17 and 22 provide for an exemption from discretionary trust tax in the case of discretionary trusts established for the benefit of incapacitated persons who, because of age or improvidence, or of physical, mental or legal incapacity are incapable of managing their own affairs;

- Section 82 provides that receipts by a permanently incapacitated individual of funds which are held on a qualifying trust or of incomes deriving from funds held on such trusts is not subject to capital acquisitions tax;

- Section 84 provides for an exemption from capital acquisitions tax on gifts or inheritances taken exclusively for discharging the qualifying expenses of an individual who is permanently incapacitated because of physical or mental infirmity; and

- Section 86 provides for an exemption from capital acquisitions tax on the transfer of a dwelling house to dependent relative provided they have lived in the dwelling house for the three years preceding the gift or inheritance and they do not have an interest in another dwelling house.

The following measures relating to local property tax and residential properties are contained in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended): 

- Section 5 provides an exemption for properties that have been vacated by the owner because of long-term physical or mental infirmity;

- Section 7 provides an exemption for properties owned by charities or public bodies that are used to provide accommodation to people who, because of old age, physical or mental disability, require a  particular type of accommodation and support to enable them to live in the     community;

- Section 10B provides an exemption for properties acquired or adapted to make them suitable for occupation by certain permanently and totally incapacitated people; and

- Section 15A provides for a reduction in the taxable value of properties that are adapted to make them more suitable for the accommodation of certain persons with a disability where the taxable value is increased as a result of the adaptation work carried out on the property.

Within the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA), the following measures are provided:

- Section 126 provides an exemption from income tax for the following social welfare payments:

- Carers Support grant

- Constant attendance allowance

- Disability allowance

- Domiciliary Care allowance

- Section 189 provides an exemption from tax in personal injury cases and applies to payments made “to or in respect of an individual who is permanently and totally incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself”;

- Section 189A provides for income tax and capital gains tax exemptions in the case of special trusts established for the benefit of incapacitated individuals; 

- Section 189B provides an exemption from income tax for periodic payments made for personal injuries;

- Section 190 provides an exemption from tax for compensation payments made to individuals by the Haemophilia H.I.V. Trust;

- Section 191 provides an exemption from income tax and capital gains tax for compensation payments made to individuals infected with Hepatitis C or HIV from the use of contaminated blood products;

- Section 192 provides an exemption from tax for payments made to individuals who have been affected by Thalidomide;

- Section 462B provides for the Single Parent Child Carer Credit which can be claimed by a single parent (whether widowed, separated, deserted or single parent) with an incapacitated child over 18 where the incapacitated child credit criteria have been met;

- Section 465 provides for the Incapacitated Child Tax Credit which can be claimed by a parent for a child who is permanently incapacitated either physically or mentally from maintaining himself/herself and had become so before reaching 21 years of age or finishing full-time education;

- Section 466 provides for the Dependent Relative Tax Credit; 

- Section 466A provides for the Home Carer Credit which can be claimed by a person who cares for a dependent child, elderly relative or incapacitated person;

- Section 467 provides tax relief in respect of the employment of a person to take care of an incapacitated individual;

- Section 468 provides for the Blind Person's Tax Credit which can be claimed by a person who is regarded as blind;

- Section 469 provides for income tax relief on health expenses, which includes doctor visits, medicines, nursing care in the patient’s home (in certain circumstances), nursing home fees, children with life threatening illnesses, kidney patients, mileage for individuals who need to travel for treatment and certain appliances;

- Section 604 provides relief from CGT in relation to a gain accruing to an individual in respect of a dwelling-house which has been occupied rent-free by a dependent relative of the individual;

- Section 792 provides tax relief in respect of a Deed of Covenant in favour of a permanently incapacitated individual. However, parents cannot covenant to a permanently incapacitated minor child (i.e. under 18 years of age);

- Guide Dogs Allowance - can be claimed as part of health expenses where an individual or his/her spouse has a guide dog and is a registered owner with 'Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind';

- Assistance/Service Dogs Allowance - can be claimed as part of health expenses where an individual or his/her spouse or child has an assistance or service dog that has been supplied by an organisation accredited by Assistance Dogs Europe.

In relation to question 12821, under the Commissioners Order 1923 (S.I. No.2 of 1923), Revenue has statutory responsibility for the performance of its functions and is independent in dealing with the tax affairs of any individual under tax and customs legislation. Section 101 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 2011 gives legal effect to Revenue’s independence in the performance of its functions. As set out in my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 173, Revenue’s treatment of any individual is subject to scrutiny by the Office of the Ombudsman. Revenue’s Chairman is the Accounting Officer and Head of Office under the Public Service Management Act, 1997, (PSMA) and in accordance with PSMA, Revenue reports annually on its Statement of Strategy to me as Minister for Finance. Revenue submits end of year accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General within three months of the end of every financial year. As Accounting Officer, and in accordance with section 10 PSMA, the Chairman appears before the Committee of Public Accounts to deal with issues arising from Reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General and other matters relating to Revenue activities that the Committee may wish to discuss. 

Revenue’s Chairman and Revenue officials regularly appear as witnesses before other Oireachtas Committees such as the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform and Taoiseach, and the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, on matters relating to Revenue activities. Furthermore, the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act, 2013, in respect of the exercise by either or both Houses of the Oireachtas (or by a Committee of either House or both Houses) of a power to conduct an inquiry into specified matters, including the provisions for matters relating to compellability, apply to Revenue.

In relation to the overall administration of the taxation and customs systems, Revenue is accountable to me as Minister for Finance. As regards parliamentary oversight, I present Revenue-related legislation to the Oireachtas; lay Revenue’s Annual Report and accounts before the Houses of the Oireachtas; present estimates for Revenue expenditure in the Dáil and present Revenue’s views, positions and observations on proposals to Cabinet. Tax policy is the responsibility of my Department and my officials work closely with Revenue officials on related issues. I have already said in reply to the earlier Parliamentary Question referred to above that I do not see a need for further identification of vulnerable persons in the tax code. However, as I also said in my reply to the earlier question, I am advised by Revenue that if the Deputy has identified a specific group of vulnerable taxpayers whose needs are not met by existing services, Revenue’s customer services team would be happy to engage with him to identify scope for further improvement.

Revenue Commissioners

Questions (182, 183)

Clare Daly

Question:

182. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will request the Revenue Commissioners to provide the number of suspicious transaction reports it receives from financial institutions in the Dublin region in each of the past ten years; if this type of information could be extracted and used in a public campaign run by the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Bank to prevent unsuspecting members of the public from being defrauded through various types of scams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12839/19]

View answer

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

183. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance the number of suspicious reports received in each of the years 2014 to 2018 from all competent organisations in each tax region as stipulated under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Funding) Act 2010; the way in which these reports are assessed; the number that lead to prosecutions and-or the collection of unpaid taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12842/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

I am advised that designated bodies are required to submit a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) to the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda S?ochána where they have a suspicion that a money laundering offence may have been committed. Tax evasion is a predicate offence for money laundering. In cases where the STR relates to other criminal activity it becomes a matter for An Garda S?ochána.

I am advised by Revenue that the number of STRs received from designated bodies, including financial institutions, under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Funding) Act, 2010 for 2009 to 2018 is as set out in the following table.

Year

STRs Received

2009

14,117

2010

13,395

2011

11,070

2012

12,175

2013

14,688

2014

18,149

2015

21,358

2016

22,607

2017

24,232

2018

23,422

 I am advised by Revenue that as regards the institutions that submit STRs, they do not have information identifying the county or regional location of such institutions  and therefore cannot provide the breakdown of STRs sought by the Deputy.

I understand that Revenue continues to engage actively with designated bodies at conferences and industry fora to communicate best practice for Money Laundering Reporting Officers (MLRO) regarding the submission of quality STRs, and to emphasise the importance of STR reports to Revenue’s ongoing compliance programmes. Such speaking events are often undertaken in conjunction with the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which handles STRs on behalf of An Garda Síochána. 

On receipt by Revenue, all STRs are linked to the relevant taxpayer’s record, assigned a risk rating, and the data is incorporated into each taxpayer’s risk profile, informing Revenue’s decision as to the nature of any compliance intervention that may be appropriate having regards to the overall risk. In 2017, the yield from audit cases involving STRs was €5.5 million. The figures for 2018 will be available in May of this year.

I am advised that it is not possible to quantify the number of cases that lead to a prosecution, as the information received in an STR forms, as previously indicated, form only part of the overall risk profile for an individual taxpayer, and may, or may not, contribute to a decision to refer a taxpayer for prosecution.

Finally, I do not consider that there is a link that can be usefully made between the level of STRs reported to Revenue and the need for vigilance by members of the public to protect themselves against the effort of fraudsters to get access to their money. However, I am aware that Revenue regularly highlights the importance of taxpayers taking appropriate steps to safeguard their personal financial or banking details and has emphasised that Revenue will never seek to acquire those details through telephone contacts with taxpayers.

Help-To-Buy Scheme

Questions (184, 185)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

184. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if there are circumstances in which persons (details supplied) could be eligible to apply for the help-to-buy initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12848/19]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

185. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the status of a help to buy application by a person (details supplied); when they can expect a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12852/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

The Help-to-Buy incentive was introduced in Finance Act 2016 to assist first-time buyers in purchasing or building a new-build property to live in as their home. To qualify for the incentive, a first-time buyer must have signed a contract to purchase a home on or after 19 July 2016 and on or before 31 December 2019. In the case of a self-build, the first-time buyer must have drawn down the first tranche of the mortgage loan within the same date range. As such, a person who drew down the first tranche of a mortgage in April 2016 is not eligible to participate in the incentive.

With regard to the specific case raised by the Deputy in the second question, I am advised by Revenue that the persons in question have already been approved for the Help-to-Buy incentive. Revenue has also confirmed to me that it has been in direct contact with one of the persons to advise on the next steps.

Further information relating to the Help-to-Buy incentive is available on the Revenue website at the following link:

www.revenue.ie/en/property/documents/htb-summary-applicants.pdf .

Small and Medium Enterprises

Questions (186)

Joan Burton

Question:

186. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if a detailed evaluation has been undertaken of the impact of rising costs for providers of hairdressing services in particular VAT rates; if the size of the black market economy of such services has been assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12853/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The “Review of the 9% VAT rate: Analysis of Economic and Sectoral Developments”, published in July 2018 alongside the VAT Issues Tax Strategy Group paper, assesses the 9% VAT rate’s relevance, cost, value-for-money, impact to date and the estimated impact were it to be removed. The Department’s Review shows that employment and profitability in hairdressing increased over 2011 to 2016.

In addition, the main finding of the Department’s Review is that expenditure on 9% goods and services is particularly sensitive to income growth and to the economic cycle, more so than to price changes. An increase in the VAT rate applied to hairdressing therefore should not greatly impact demand in the sector. This is evidenced by studies which have shown that hairdressing services are twice the cost in Ireland compared to Northern Ireland, despite the fact that a 20% VAT rate applies to the service in the North compared to 13.5% here.

Corporation Tax Regime

Questions (187)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

187. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of corporation tax paid in each of the years 2014 to 2018, from international companies registered in the Dublin docklands area; and his views on whether a proportion of these taxes should be ring-fenced to support initiatives in the nearby local communities. [12896/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that a breakdown of Corporation Tax receipts, on a sectoral basis up to 2017, is published at the following link: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/receipts/receipts-sector.aspx. Data for 2018 is not yet available and will be finalised in the coming months.  

It is not possible from Revenue records to separately identify receipts from companies based in the Dublin docklands area. However, if these companies are conducting financial or treasury type operations, their receipts are included in the “Financial and Insurance activities” sector in the above referenced table. However, this identifies receipts on a national basis for the sector, and would therefore encompass much more than the activity in the Dublin Docklands area.

The Deputy has enquired about the potential for ring-fencing, or hypothecation, of corporation tax receipts in the Dublin Docklands area. Hypothecation describes the linkage of specific expenditure to an explicit revenue source. As the Deputy will be aware, this is not a feature of the Irish tax system in general. It is only used in limited circumstances where there is strong justification for its use, because it can cause difficulties for the efficient and effective management of the public finances. I and my officials are generally opposed to the hypothecation of revenue funds as it reduces the flexibility of the Government to prioritise and allocate funds as necessary at a particular time.  Furthermore, it also exposes specific expenditure dependent solely on a hypothecated revenue to any volatility associated with the revenue source in question.

VAT Rate Increases

Questions (188, 189, 196)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

188. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 141 of 14 November 2018, the reason this is the case in view of information (details supplied) on the website of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12900/19]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

189. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 141 of 14 November 2018, the reason this is the case in view of previous replies to Parliamentary Questions (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12901/19]

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Robert Troy

Question:

196. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners and his officials will discuss with the relevant stakeholders and consult with the best international research in the fields of cardiology and oncology regarding the positive impact vitamin supplements, such as magnesium and vitamin K2, have on mortality and morbidity rates; and if so, if such research will feed into deliberations in relation to the application of VAT to such products. [13324/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188, 189 and 196 together.

The background to this issue is that VAT legislation does not apply the zero rate of VAT to food supplements but shortly after the introduction of VAT Revenue applied a concessionary zero rating to certain vitamin, mineral and fish oil food supplement products. As the market developed over the years this treatment resulted in the zero rating by Revenue of further similar products, including products other than vitamins, minerals and fish oils, and these rulings were published in Revenue’s VAT rates database. The evolution of the scope of the concessionary treatment of certain types of food supplements was well understood by the industry and by agents representing clients in the food supplements sector. However it had become increasingly difficult to maintain an effective distinction between food supplements that could benefit from the zero rate and those that were standard rated, resulting in a situation in which elements in the industry and certain agents aggressively pursued zero rating of all kinds of products, including products claiming to enhance male fertility, promote hair growth, boost tanning, avoid a hangover, build muscle and reduce stress. These businesses consistently challenged Revenue guidance and Revenue decisions on the VAT rating of products giving rise to serious concerns about compliance within the industry and unfair competition between compliant and non-compliant businesses.

The industry’s representative body, the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), raised concerns with Revenue about the difficulties in distinguishing between food supplement products which could be zero rated and those which should be standard rated. In response to the issues raised by the IHTA, Revenue undertook a comprehensive review of the VAT treatment of food supplements and engaged an expert to advise on the definition of food for the purposes of the VAT Consolidation Act, 2010. Based on the expert advice and its own legal analysis, Revenue concluded that the status quo was no longer sustainable and engaged with my Department concerning policy options that might be considered in the context of Finance Bill 2018. I decided not to introduce any legislative changes at that time but as the Deputy may be aware I have committed to putting in place a consultation process to help me identify the policy options in relation to VAT on food supplements and will publish the conclusions in the Tax Strategy Papers later this year. I envisage seeking input from a wide range of interested parties, including from health and nutrition experts, to ensure that any legislative changes I bring forward are evidence based, and I will consult with my colleague the Minister for Health in this regard.

Details on the public consultation will be announced shortly.