73. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing the remuneration limit under the KEEP scheme from 50% to 100%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34932/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 73-96
Questions Nos. 74 to 76, inclusive, answered with Question No. 71.
73. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing the remuneration limit under the KEEP scheme from 50% to 100%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34932/19]View answer
Finance Act 2018 removed the requirement for the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) that qualifying share options granted could not exceed 50% of the annual emoluments of the qualifying individual in the year of assessment. Employers may now award qualifying KEEP options of up to the value of 100% of an employee’s annual emoluments (i.e. equal options and emoluments).
I also replaced the three-year limit with a lifetime limit and increased the quantum of share options that can be granted under the scheme from €250,000 to €300,000.
As KEEP falls within the State Aid rules it was necessary to obtain approval from the EU Commission prior to commencing the amendment. Following such approval, I recently signed a Commencement Order on this matter which is effective from 1 January 2019.
It was estimated at the time of Budget 2019 that the amendments to the remuneration limits under KEEP would not affect the projected maximum cost of the incentive, which is €10 million per annum.
77. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the annual operating cost for the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council in 2018 and 2019, respectively. [34971/19]View answer
The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council is funded directly by the Exchequer. Funding is categorised as non-voted current expenditure. As per the recently published Finance Accounts 2018, the operating cost of the Council in 2018 was €0.675 million.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2012 provides for an expenditure ceiling of €0.8 million for the Fiscal Council in 2012. This sum is to be adjusted by the annual percentage change in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices published by the Central Statistics Office for each subsequent year.
The projected operating cost of the Council in 2019 is €0.83 million, of which €0.35 million has been expended to end-July as per the July Fiscal Monitor.
78. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if his Department is utilising the SWITCH model in its development of gender budgeting processes to be implemented across all Departments. [34980/19]View answer
My Department, as well as the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform represent the main stakeholders in the ESRI's Simulating Welfare and Income Tax Changes (SWITCH) model. The ESRI developed this tax and benefit micro simulation model in the 1990s and they now maintain it annually.
Officials from the Department of Finance regularly conduct analysis of the distributional impacts of tax changes using SWITCH along a number of dimensions, including gender, with these assessments feeding into the budget decision making process. This analytical capacity has been available to all model stakeholders since 2018 and now facilitates the development of the wider gender budgeting process. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection publishes an annual Social Impact Assessment, which includes an analysis of the distributional impact of Budget measures along the gender dimension. The most recent analysis found that women across all income quintiles benefitted, on average, more than men as a result of measures introduced in Budget 2019.
The Programme for Partnership Government commits the Government to “develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights” and gender budgeting plays an important part in this. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform chairs an Equality Budgeting Expert Advisory Group, of which the Department of Finance is a member. The aim of the group is to develop gender budgeting in Ireland in line with best international standards.
79. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing by €100,000, €500,000, €1 million and €2 million, respectively, the threshold at which businesses must use the invoice system as opposed to cash receipts system for VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34985/19]View answer
I am advised by Revenue that the estimated temporary cash flow impact on Exchequer receipts, of increasing the threshold at which businesses must use the invoice system as opposed to cash receipts system for VAT by €100,000, €500,000, €1 million and €2 million is provided in the following table.
80. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the tax back programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35003/19]View answer
I am advised by Revenue that the VAT Consolidation Act of 2010 allows retailers to make repayments of VAT to travellers, under certain conditions; Revenue has no role in processing these repayments.
Operating the scheme is optional for a retailer and any repayment to a traveller may be processed directly by the retailer or through an agent by agreement with the retailer. The decision to charge a fee in respect of the cost of processing a repayment and the level of such fees is a business decision for the retailer, as is the decision to outsource this work and associated charges to a service provider.
A retailer or agent that offers repayments under the scheme must notify the traveller of any fees to be charged. Any consumer that was not informed of such fees should pursue the matter with the retailer.
81. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Finance if Irish collective asset-management vehicles as incorporated bodies will be required to provide information on beneficial ownership to the register of beneficial ownership; if this information will be made publicly available; if there is an up-to-date membership list in accordance with Regulation 18 of the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019 (details supplied); and if not, his plans to introduce legislation or requirements to that effect. [35028/19]View answer
Irish Collective Asset-management Vehicles (ICAVs) incorporated under the ICAVs Act 2014 are currently required to locally hold information on their beneficial ownership as specified in SI 110 of 2019.
Legal entities incorporated under the Companies Act and the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893 to 2014, are required to centrally file their beneficial ownership information with the Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO). The Registrar was appointed by the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to this role in July 2019.
Similarly the ICAVs will also be required to provide information on beneficial ownership to a central Register of Beneficial Ownership as set out in Article 30 of the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD). This information will be accessible to the public in accordance with the provisions of the 5AMLD.
The transposition work in this regard is ongoing. The transposition deadline for the requirement for corporate and other legal entities to centrally file under Article 30 of 5AMLD is 10 January 2020 and officials are progressing regulations in accordance with this deadline.
82. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the facilities in place at Revenue Commissioners offices nationally for persons to obtain hard copy forms to claim tax relief such as tax credits and tax free allowances; the staff assistance available to persons who wish to make such claims in hard copy format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35106/19]View answer
I am advised by Revenue that it offers a wide range of online and other service options to support taxpayers in voluntarily complying with their tax and duty obligations.
The online services including for example, ‘Myaccount’, Revenue Online Service’ (ROS), eTax Clearance and 'MyEnquiries' are fully secure and available on a 24/7 basis. The systems are also intuitive and very user-friendly.
For those who do not use online services, Revenue has significantly improved its telephone services. For example, a customer can order a form by ringing the 24-hour automated ‘Forms Ordering Service’ on telephone number 01-7383675 and leaving voicemail details of the forms required, which will be immediately forwarded to the requested postal address. Alternatively, customers can request forms via email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revenue accepts that not all customers are e-enabled and prefer to visit public offices to obtain hard-copy forms and/or seek assistance. All forms are available in these public offices and on the rare occasion that stocks run out can be quickly ordered and forwarded to the customer. The staff in the public offices will assist and advise on the completion of forms and provide any assistance required on request.
Where a Revenue public office is not easily accessible, customers can make an appointment to visit a local office at a time that best suits their individual circumstances and meet an official who will assist as necessary, including completing forms. The appointments service telephone numbers are available at link; https://www.revenue.ie/en/contact-us/customer-service-contact/pay-as-you-earn-paye.aspx?gcd=0047
Finally, if the Deputy is aware of a specific individual that requires assistance he can advise the person to contact Revenue at 01-8655400 where arrangements can be made to deal with the matter.
83. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income a couple with joint assessment can earn without being subject to income tax in circumstances in which both parties are under 65 years of age; the position in circumstances in which one party is under 65 years of age and the other is over 65 years of age; the amounts by which there is a PAYE allowance available to one or other of the persons involved; the income threshold they must cross before they are liable to pay income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35108/19]View answer
Couples under the age of 65 are liable to tax under the normal system of rate bands and tax credits, and their own personal circumstances will determine their tax-free income thresholds for the year(s) in question. Further information is available on the Revenue website at https://www.revenue.ie/en/personal-tax-credits-reliefs-and-exemptions/tax-relief-charts/index.aspx.
A person aged 65 and over is fully exempt from income tax where his or her total income from all sources is less than the relevant exemption limit. For 2019, the exemption limits are €36,000 for a married couple or civil partners and €18,000 for a single individual. Only one member of the couple is required to be 65 or over at any time in the year for the increased exemption limit of €36,000 to apply. Where a couple have dependent children, the exemption limit is increased by €575 per child for the first 2 children and €830 for each child thereafter. Where an individual exceeds the exemption limit, he or she is liable to tax based on the normal system of tax rates, rate bands and tax credits, subject to the application of marginal relief where relevant. Further information on the application of the exemption limit and associated marginal relief is available in Revenue’s Tax and Duty Manual on the Revenue website at https://www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tdm/income-tax-capital-gains-tax-corporation-tax/part-07/07-01-18.pdf.
Other supports for the over 65s may apply depending on personal circumstances, including the Age Tax Credit which is available to all individuals aged 65 or over who do not qualify for an exemption from income tax. This credit is currently set at €245 for single individuals or €490 for a married couple or civil partners. As with the exemption limits mentioned above, only one member of the couple must be 65 or over at any time in the year to be eligible for the increased Age Tax Credit of €490. Further information on the income tax credits and reliefs for individuals over 65 is available in Revenue’s Tax and Duty Manual on the Revenue website at https://www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tdm/income-tax-capital-gains-tax-corporation-tax/part-15/15-01-26.pdf.
In relation to the PAYE tax credit (employee tax credit), this credit of €1,650 is available where an individual is in receipt of income that is taxable under the PAYE system. In addition to wages, this includes benefits-in-kind, occupational pensions and payments received from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). The credit is also available to Irish resident individuals who are in receipt of a social security pension received from another EU Member State or wages from abroad, where tax was deducted under a PAYE type system. Further information is available on the Revenue website at https://www.revenue.ie/en/personal-tax-credits-reliefs-and-exemptions/income-and-employment/employee-tax-credit/index.aspx.
84. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the number of bankruptcies initiated by the Revenue Commissioners; the number of adjudications in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the combined tax debts in respect of such bankruptcies in each year; the amount subsequently recovered in each period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35177/19]View answer
85. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the number of cases following on from bankruptcies initiated by the Revenue Commissioners in which a person or a family lost their home in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35178/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.
I am advised by Revenue that its clear preference is to engage with taxpayers experiencing tax payment difficulties and to agree mutually acceptable solutions rather than deploying debt collection/enforcement sanctions to secure payment of outstanding liabilities. In general, Revenue petitions for bankruptcy to the High-Court as a last resort, where all other avenues of enforcement have been exhausted.
The court process generally allows time for the parties to come to an arrangement. However, where this is not possible, the High-Court will proceed with the bankruptcy adjudication. Once debtors are adjudicated bankrupt, their assets, which may include a family home, vest with the Official Assignee, which is a function of the Insolvency Service of Ireland. Once a person is adjudicated as bankrupt, Revenue is legally obliged to accept its share of any asset distribution in accordance with its status as a preferential creditor.
While Revenue would be aware of a bankrupt’s assets from its own debt collection/enforcement action (pre-bankruptcy), it has no authority to instruct the Official Assignee on the sale of any assets, including the family home. Therefore, the Deputy’s Question regarding the loss of family homes in Revenue-initiated bankruptcy cases is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The following table sets out the number of bankruptcies initiated by Revenue, the number of adjudications, the combined tax debts involved, and the amount recovered in the period 2015 to date. It should be noted that cases can take several years to progress through the Courts and an adjudication or recovered tax debt in one year is likely to relate to a bankruptcy petition from an earlier year.
Bankruptcies Initiated by Revenue
Combined Adjudicated Tax Debt
*Recovered Tax Debt from the Official Assignee
*Includes both Revenue initiated cases and Non-Revenue initiated cases as a breakdown between both sub-sets is not readily available from the Official Assignee.
86. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of lowering the €250 eligibility threshold for capital reliefs on individual donations to sports capital projects to €200; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35188/19]View answer
Section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for Donations to certain sports bodies. The current eligibility threshold for donations to sports capital projects is €250. The relief is based on the entire donation, not just on the portion exceeding €250. The most recent data available, relating to 2017, indicate that the relief costs €0.3 million.
Revenue have advised me that it is not possible to estimate the cost impact of a reduction to €200 in the threshold as it is not possible to predict whether donor behaviour might change on foot of a lower threshold. For example, where new donors opt to only contribute the reduced minimum amount or where current donors opt to reduce their contribution to the minimum amount.
87. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the margin of compliance with the expenditure benchmark and the structural balance under EU fiscal rules under the scenario outlined in table 6 of the summer economic statement in each of the years 2020 to 2024; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35276/19]View answer
The margin of compliance with the expenditure benchmark can be found in row n of Table A1 in Annex 1 of the Summer Economic Statement (SES). This assessment is consistent with the estimates published as part of the Stability Programme Update (SPU) 2019 and further takes into account the orderly Brexit scenario ('Scenario A').
As the Deputy will appreciate, the SES consists of high-level, indicative scenarios and does not include a full set of detailed macro-economic and fiscal forecasts as published bi-annually in the SPU and Budget. Accordingly the full set of inputs, to provide an updated assessment of the fiscal rules, are not currently available.
The next set of official forecasts will be published as part of Budget 2020 in October.
88. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the indicative nominal budgetary package in table 6 of the summer economic statement under an orderly Brexit scenario in each of the years 2020 to 2024 if the general Government balance were to be 0% in each of the years in tabular form; the margin of compliance with the expenditure benchmark and the structural balance under the EU fiscal rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35277/19]View answer
90. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the nominal GGB figure were added to the indicative nominal budgetary package in table 6 of the summer economic statement then the GGB would be zero for each of the years; if so, the reason this would give a greater budget package in each of the years than the gross fiscal space outlined in table 7 in which deficits in the GGB are forecasted for 2021 to 2024, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35279/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 90 together.
Simplistically, adding the nominal general government balance (GGB) presented in Table 6 of the Summer Economic Statement 2019 (SES) to the indicative nominal budgetary package would result in the nominal budgetary package increasing by the same amount and the GGB accordingly falling to zero each year, all else being equal.
Assessment of the expenditure benchmark and structural balance is based on European Commission forecasts and, as a result, a direct one-to-one comparison following the above hypothetical reallocation is not possible. This assessment furthermore relies upon numerous variables, including the composition of the new budgetary package and macroeconomic factors.
The difference between the GGB and fiscal space is conceptual in nature. The GGB represents the projected difference between general government revenue and general government expenditure. Fiscal space, which is derived from the expenditure benchmark, represents the legally permitted increase in expenditure and is effectively decoupled from revenue performance.
As the Deputy is aware, this Government is committed to framing the budgetary parameters based on what is appropriate for Ireland and not simply a full and literal application of legally permitted limits. My Department, as well as other commentators such as the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, have repeatedly highlighted the unsuitability of the harmonised fiscal rules. The Summer Economic Statement included the fiscal space table purely for transparency and completeness.
Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 88.
89. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the structural balance under EU fiscal rules according to table 7 of the summer economic statement notwithstanding the concerns over using fiscal space; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35278/19]View answer
Forecasts of the main economic and fiscal variables (including the structural balance) were published in the Stability Programme Update (SPU) 2019 in April. These forecasts are consistent with the baseline budgetary package (i.e. €2.8 billion).
Revised forecasts will be published by my Department in October alongside the Budget. The Summer Economic Statement (SES) 2019 sets out two potential scenarios that will impact on Budget 2020, namely an orderly Brexit or a disorderly Brexit. A further full set of macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts were not produced by my Department in line with its policy of only doing so twice a year, i.e. SPU and Budget.
Table 7 of the SES is a simple illustration of the amount of fiscal space consistent with scenario A. While it attempts to demonstrate the impact on the general government balance of the full utilisation of available fiscal space, this is done in a static manner for illustrative purposes. It is clearly stated that it is not the intention of this Government to use any of this additional fiscal space, rather, the budgetary package outlined in table 6 will be adhered to, should Britain exit the EU under the orderly assumptions. Therefore, any calculations based on the use of this fiscal space are purely hypothetical.
The following table provides an estimate of the structural balance consistent with Table 7 of the SES based on a ceteris paribus assumption that the output gap remains unchanged when the full available fiscal space is used.
Structural Balance based on Table 7 (per cent of GDP)
91. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the forecasted Exchequer borrowing requirement under the scenario outlined in table 6 of the summer economic statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35280/19]View answer
The Exchequer Borrowing Requirement (EBR) is a bottom-up forecast based on updated macroeconomic forecasts endorsed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC). The forecast is conducted twice annually; in Spring, in advance of the Stability Programme Update, and again in Autumn, in advance of the Budget. Therefore there is no EBR forecast corresponding to Summer Economic Statement 2019. Instead, the Summer Economic Statement provides a top-down estimation of the resources expected to be available for the forthcoming Budget.
The next formal EBR forecast will be set out in the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditures which will be published in advance of the Budget and will set out the no-policy-change position for 2020.
92. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated first and full year cost of waiving PRSI and USC on interest earned from lending through crowdfunding for all crowdfunding loans and for crowdfunding loans to just SMEs, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35293/19]View answer
93. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers in a year who have received income by way of interest from loans given through crowdfunding platforms based on the most recent tax data available; the amount of income tax, USC and PRSI paid on that income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35294/19]View answer
94. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers in a year who have lent to SMEs here through crowdfunding platforms based on the most recent tax data available; the amount of income tax, USC and PRSI paid by these taxpayers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35295/19]View answer
95. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the average loan size per taxpayer lent through crowdfunding platforms based on the latest tax data available; the average loan size for SME loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35296/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 to 95, inclusive, together.
I am informed by Revenue that there is no requirement to report interest on crowdfunding loans separately to other interest on tax returns, or for investors to report details of loans made via crowdfunding in their income tax returns. Therefore, there is no basis on which to provide the information sought.
96. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Finance the reason links from search engines or other sources to documents found on the website of his Department now link to a Department home page rather than the document itself; his plans to rectify the situation; the advice taken before the change was implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35325/19]View answer
In relation to my Department, I wish to advise that ICT services are provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Government department websites are currently undergoing a significant change in how they present online content to citizens and businesses, with a view to making them easier to use and more accessible to all members of society. Over time, department websites are being moved to one single website, gov.ie, giving people a one stop shop for accessing information on government services and organisations.
It is generally seen as best practice to pursue the consolidation of public service information into one consistent accessible website. The most digitally advanced countries within the EU (see the EU eGovernment Benchmark 2018 - Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Latvia and Malta), have already moved to a single digital gateway approach. Furthermore, a 2016 market research exercise carried out by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that the concept of a single, online portal for government was positively received by both the general public and representative bodies alike. This view was again confirmed by a subsequent market research exercise carried out in late 2018.
Following a government decision to migrate all ministerial department websites to gov.ie, work has proceeded on this basis. So far, 5 departments have moved their website content to gov.ie - the Departments of the Taoiseach; Public Expenditure and Reform; Rural and Community Development; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Finance.
As a part of the migration to gov.ie, content from websites are reworked and moved into the gov.ie website (for example, efforts are made to make the services content easier to understand through the use of plain English). Post migration, the internet addresses for the new content within gov.ie is different from the addresses of the content, including documents, on the old websites.
The migration of a website to a new one with a different address necessarily breaks links to the old website content from external sources. This is suffered for all website migrations, including the department websites in question. This issue is temporary in nature as search engines re-index content on the internet, and also as external sites (that are not search indexes) update their links to point to the new location of content. Over time, the issue of finding broken links and being redirected to a department’s homepage on gov.ie will become less and less frequent, and will eventually cease to occur.
To reduce the impact of the temporary ill effects caused by these website migrations, the occurrence of visitors to broken links within gov.ie is monitored via site analytics. In conjunction with each department’s content manager, work is continuously being undertaken where possible to redirect such broken links to the correct and new location within gov.ie. Furthermore, prior to website migration into gov.ie, work is undertaken to pre-emptively set up such redirects to popular content so as to reduce the likelihood of this issue arising.
Between search engine re-indexing and the ongoing efforts based on website analytics, the user experience of gov.ie in regards to the matter the Deputy refers will improve over time.