Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 259.

Question No. 269 answered with Question No. 263.

Retail Sector

Questions (270)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

270. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Finance the consideration and engagement he has had to extend and continue the retail export scheme given that this is a vital lifeline to many small, independent craft businesses across the country, including the Lee Valley, County Cork, and particularly those businesses that rely heavily on the tourist market from outside of the EU and that avail of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37338/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Retail Export Scheme enables visitors that are resident outside the EU benefit from VAT relief on goods purchased in Ireland and subsequently taken outside of the EU. Under existing rules, when the UK becomes a third country, visitors from Britain will be able to avail of the scheme. No minimum threshold currently applies in respect of expenditure on which VAT relief may be claimed.

The Bill as published provides that the value of qualifying goods must exceed €175 in order to be eligible for a refund under the scheme. This change is fully compatible with EU law and is in line with the EU VAT Directive. The Bill also introduces a requirement of proof of importation of the goods into the UK and the associated proof of payment, where applicable, of relevant UK VAT and duties, for the goods purchased under the scheme in order to qualify for a refund.

In recognition of the difficulties facing retailers, especially businesses in the tourism sector, I am bringing forward an amendment at committee stage to reduce the threshold to €75. This reduction retains protections for the exchequer while also acknowledging the potential impact that not making this change would have on retailers across the country at this difficult time.

With regards to extension of the scheme, there is no application or authorisation process involved in the scheme, as it is a self-assessment system. Retailers may operate the Retail Export Scheme in their own right or in conjunction with a Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund agent.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

Questions (271)

Seán Canney

Question:

271. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a problem being faced by education and training board part-time tutors seeking to access the temporary wage subsidy scheme (details supplied); his views on whether the current situation is unfair on part-time employees of ETBs; his plans to address the inequality in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37972/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was provided for in section 28 of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 and was in place for 22 weeks between 26 March and 31 August. Over 66,500 employers received a subsidy under the TWSS with payments worth just under €2.9 billion paid out to over 664,000 workers.

It was introduced as an emergency income support for employees of vulnerable firms (where turnover had reduced by at least 25% during Q2 while the strictest public health measures were in place) and was paid via the employer so as to maintain employment links between the employee and employer insofar as was possible. The level of income given for each individual employee was based on previous wages received in January and February 2020.

Under the TWSS, in relation to multiple employments, earnings from all active employments were combined thereby ensuring that the overall position of each employee was taken into account when calculating the employee’s subsidy entitlement. This meant that if a person was employed part-time by an ETB and part-time by a private sector employer, the subsidy paid through the private sector employer would reflect that employment only.

Questions relating to an individual employee’s entitlements and rights in an employment context, what wages an employer may be legally obliged to pay employees in respect of their employment contract, hours worked and an employer’s capacity to pay wages to employees in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic are all matters that are outside the remit of the scheme.

Since 1 September, the TWSS has been replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which is an employer subsidy to help support viable firms and encourage employment. The level of subsidy given to the employer is based on the number of paid workers on the payroll per week, applying prospectively and, unlike the TWSS, is not determined on the basis of previous pay.

Cycle to Work Scheme

Questions (272)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

272. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Finance the thresholds for the bike to work scheme from January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38003/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Section 118 (5G) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for the cycle to work scheme. The scheme provides an exemption from benefit-in-kind where an employer purchases a bicycle and associated safety equipment for an employee to use, in whole or in part, to travel to work. Safety equipment includes helmets, lights, bells, mirrors and locks but does not include child seats or trailers. The scheme requires that the employee must mainly use the bicycle and safety equipment for qualifying journeys. This means the whole or part of a journey between home and the normal place of work.

The Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Act 2020 made some changes to the scheme, increasing the exemption limit from €1,000 to €1,250 or, in the case of electric bikes, to €1,500 for employer expenditure on the provision of bicycles and associated safety equipment, and also enabling employees to avail of the scheme more frequently. These increased thresholds are effective since 1 August 2020 and will not change in January 2021.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

Questions (273)

Bríd Smith

Question:

273. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Finance if clarification will be provided on a series of matters (details supplied) regarding the temporary wage subsidy scheme statistics published by the Revenue Commissioners, specifically in respect of table 9 regarding the scheme and top-ups by employers. [38015/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I assume the Deputy is referring to the statistical overview of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) published by Revenue, which is available at link: www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/documents/research/statistical-overview-of-covid-19-twss.pdf.

I am advised by Revenue that table 9 of the report shows the level of top-up payments made by TWSS recipient employers to their eligible employees each month (i.e. additional payments above the level of the subsidy). The amounts shown as ‘Employer Gross Pay’ in the table comprise of both top-up payments and wages where employees were no longer supported by TWSS. The figures do not include the TWSS subsidy amounts. I am advised by Revenue that because any week within a monthly cycle can include a variety of pay frequencies, for example weekly, fortnightly, twice monthly, monthly, (table 8 refers), the most appropriate measure of the level of top-up payments is for a month as a whole.

Regarding the Deputy’s request for a breakdown of top-up payments as a percentage of gross pay, I am advised by Revenue that this is not possible to provide due to the way in which gross pay was recorded during the operation of TWSS. For TWSS inclusive payslips, employers only reported the top-up payment amount in the ‘gross pay field’ of the payroll submission. The subsidy payment amount was not included (in the ‘gross pay field’) and for this reason, the comparison requested by the Deputy is not available.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Question No. 275 answered with Question No. 263.

Questions (274)

John McGuinness

Question:

274. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by his Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38040/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

My Department is currently not undertaking or in the process of setting up any tribunals, enquiries, or investigations.

Question No. 275 answered with Question No. 263.

Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

Questions (276)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

276. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of enforcement actions that have been taken by the Central Bank as a result of breaches in the code of conduct on mortgage arrears in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38053/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The protection of mortgage borrowers, including those in arrears, is a key priority for both the Central Bank. The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) must be complied with as a matter of law and the Central Bank has the power to take enforcement action against any regulated entity who does not act in compliance with the CCMA.

Whilst no public enforcement actions have been taken relating to compliance with the CCMA to date, the Central Bank’s Enforcement division liaises closely with supervisors as and when issues arise, and a credible threat of enforcement underscores the Central Bank’s powers to protect consumers.

The Central Bank takes robust enforcement action aimed at promoting principled and ethical behaviour by and within regulated entities and consumer protection is core to that work. As the Deputy will know, it has taken a number of actions in these areas since 2016 in furtherance of its consumer protection mandate, including the two largest monetary sanctions imposed to date by the Central Bank – Permanent TSB plc sanctioned €21 million in 2019 and KBC Bank Ireland plc sanctioned €18.3 million in 2020.

In addition to enforcement actions such as the Administrative Sanctions Procedure, the Central Bank uses a wide range of other tools to take action against regulated entities which fall short of its expected standards of behaviour. These include ensuring that firms and individuals seeking to access the market meet high regulatory standards, requiring firms to have robust risk management processes in place to address all risks to consumers, directing firms to put things right when they have made errors or caused consumer harm and making sure firms compensate consumers for losses in appropriate cases. The toolkit also includes the refusal and revocation of authorisations and the refusal and prohibition of individuals as appropriate.

The Central Bank assures me that it will continue to assertively supervise compliance with the CCMA and will investigate any issues that arise, including patterns of behaviour which suggest that the CCMA process is not being followed.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

Questions (277)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

277. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Finance if the current 30% threshold criterion of July to December for accessing the employment wage support scheme will be reviewed and amended (details supplied). [38125/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) has been deliberately designed as an economy wide enterprise support that is open to all sectors on the basis of a turnover test that can be applied across the whole economy while at the same time remain targeted at employers who are considered to be most in need of support.

The EWSS turnover test has been specifically calibrated so as to target the subsidy at otherwise viable employers whose businesses continue to be adversely impacted by COVID-19 by requiring a comparison of the firm’s pre-pandemic operations with their current operations. The legislation provides that the employer must be able to demonstrate that they are operating at no more than 70% in either the turnover of the employer’s business or the customer orders received by the employer by reference to the period from July to December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

There is additional flexibility in the application of the turnover test to allow employers to take account of potentially sudden changes in turnover on a month-to-month “opt-in/opt-out” basis. Under the legislation, an employer is required to carry out a review of their turnover each month and confirm that they are still eligible for the scheme. At the same time, there is no cut-off deadline for access to the scheme, so if there is a reduction in turnover later in 2020 because of an unexpected reduction in business activity or a sudden change in business circumstances the employer may be entitled to make a claim for that future period.

I am satisfied that the EWSS already contains sufficient flexibility to take account of changes in business circumstances and is targeted at employers across all sectors who are most in need of support.

For those who may not be eligible for the EWSS, I would draw attention to the comprehensive package of other business and employer supports that have been made available since the July Stimulus Plan and Budget 2021 - including the Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS), the Credit Guarantee Scheme, the SBCI Working Capital Scheme, Sustaining Enterprise Fund, and the Covid-19 Business Loans Scheme.

Revenue Commissioners

Questions (278)

Pa Daly

Question:

278. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Finance if approval will be given in respect of a matter in the case of a person (details supplied). [38128/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that a request to review the decision insofar as it relates to the person concerned has very recently been received by them and the matter is now being examined.

When Revenue has completed its consideration of this matter, it will advise of the outcome to the person concerned and to the Deputy.

Tax Exemptions

Questions (279)

Pat Buckley

Question:

279. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Finance if a donation by a trust (details supplied) to a club for the completion of an all-weather pitch is not liable for taxation. [38231/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am informed by Revenue that there are a number of exemptions from Income Tax, Corporation Tax and Capital Acquisition Tax in respect of donations for sporting or charitable purposes, outlined as follows.

A gift or an inheritance which is taken for public or charitable purposes is exempt from both gift tax and inheritance tax and is not taken into account when computing tax to the extent that Revenue is satisfied that it has been, or will be, applied for purposes which in accordance with the laws of the State are public or charitable.

Section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA) provides for an exemption from Income Tax or Corporation Tax, as appropriate, for bodies established for the sole purpose of the promotion of athletic or amateur games or sports (“approved sporting bodies”) for so much of their income that is applied for the purpose of promoting the game or sport in question. This exemption shall be granted where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that such income is applied solely for those purposes. Provided the body in question has been granted the exemption from Revenue, the donation will not be subject to tax, provided the monies are used for the sole purpose of promoting the relevant game or sport. I am advised by Revenue that the body mentioned by the Deputy does not currently have an exemption under section 235 TCA; the list of bodies with such an exemption is available on the Revenue website at: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/documents/statistics/registrations/sports-bodies-numeric.pdf.

Section 847A TCA provides tax relief for donations to sporting bodies in relation to capital projects specifically approved by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Applications for approval to operate this scheme should be made to that Department. Bodies which apply for approval must submit both a valid tax clearance certificate and sports exemption certificate in support of this application. However, section 847A only applies to donations made by an individual or a company and would not appear to apply to the case mentioned by the Deputy.

Given the limited details provided, it will be necessary for the relevant parties involved to consider the circumstances of the transaction to determine whether the above mentioned exemptions apply to the facts and circumstances of the case.

Tax Credits

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 263.

Questions (280)

Seán Canney

Question:

280. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Finance if the four-year rule for claiming tax credits has been revised in view of the fact that many business persons face large fines and penalties from the Revenue Commissioners relating to multiple years and there is a large discrepancy between the Revenue Commissioners' willingness to provide repayments limited only to four years while seeking to recoup taxes, interest and penalties from taxpayers going back for much longer periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38359/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that there has been no change to the “four-year rule” for repayment claims, which is provided for in section 865 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA) and applies to claims made on or after 1 January 2005. There have been no substantive changes to the rule since its introduction. The four-year rule is not a matter of Revenue’s “willingness” or unwillingness to make repayments. Revenue is not permitted to make repayments outside the period provided for under statute.

Section 865 TCA covers repayments of income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, income levy, domicile levy and the universal social charge, as well as

- any interest, surcharge or penalty relating to the tax, levy or charge;

- any sum relating to a withdrawal of a relief or an exemption;

- sums required to be withheld and remitted to Revenue; and

- amounts paid on account of tax (for example, payments in excess of liability).

In general, all claims for repayment of tax must be submitted within four years of the end of the period to in which the tax liability arose, but a shorter period may apply if provided for by another provision of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.

Specific entitlement to repayment of tax may arise under provisions of the Tax Acts other than section 865 TCA. These entitlements are unaffected by the general right to repayment in that section but all entitlements to repayment are subject to the rules relating to time limits in section 865. A four-year time limit for repayments is also provided for in other tax legislation.

Revenue’s power to raise or amend assessments, or make inquiries, is generally limited to no later than four years after the end of the chargeable period to which a tax return relates. However, this limit does not apply where a taxpayer has filed an incorrect return by reason of fraud or neglect, or if the taxpayer has failed to deliver a return when one should have been delivered. This is an important provision to combat and deter non-compliance.

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 263.

Community Banking

Questions (282)

Holly Cairns

Question:

282. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Finance the progress his Department has made on implementing a new community banking service operated by An Post to be made available in all post offices throughout the country, as stated in the debate on the Private Members’ motion of 16 November 2016 on the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38528/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

This question is primarily a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Mr Eamon Ryan TD, as An Post is a body under the aegis of his Department.

My role in relation to the provision of services by An Post relates purely to payment services, for which I as the Minister for Finance authorise An Post to provide. This authorisation is under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 (Section 67) Order 2016.

However, I can provide some information regarding the work of my Department on community banking.

In December 2019, the Department of Finance published a report on the Evaluation of Concept of Community Banking in Ireland by Indecon Consultants. This followed on from the publication of a previous report by the Department of Finance on Local Public Banking in July 2018.

The Indecon report looked at An Post in the context of community banking in Ireland. The report noted that An Post has a large number of post office branches and is present in every county in Ireland. Analysis by Indecon showed that An Post has in excess of 500 post offices in locations where there are no banks within 5 km.

The report noted that An Post plays an important part of the local community banking infrastructure. An Post is now offering an increasing range of banking services, including current accounts and personal lending.

Banking Sector

Questions (283)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

283. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to financial institutions refusing to provide business bank accounts not including credit facilities to persons previously adjudicated bankrupt and who have since been discharged from bankruptcy; his views on the practice; the options relating to financial services available to such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38760/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

As the Deputy may be aware, as the Minister for Finance I have no function in relation to bankruptcy, which is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice. The provision of products or services, including a business bank account, to a business or consumer is a ultimately a commercial decision for regulated financial service providers to make on a case-by-case basis.

I am advised that the Central Bank does not have any remit over bankruptcy matters, and relevant rules under the Central Bank’s remit do not include any criteria in relation to the operation of business bank accounts for those affected by bankruptcy.

However, Provision 2.11 of the Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) provides that a regulated entity must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation it, without prejudice to the pursuit of its legitimate commercial aims, does not, through its policies, procedures, or working practices, prevent access to basic financial services. The Code’s definition of a consumer excludes incorporated bodies with an annual turnover in excess of €3 million in the previous financial year, but includes incorporated bodies having an annual turnover of €3 million or less in the previous financial year (provided that such body shall not be a member of a group of companies having a combined turnover greater than the said €3 million).

If a consumer is not satisfied with how a regulated firm is dealing with them, or they believe that the regulated firm is not following the requirements of the Central Bank’s codes and regulations or other financial services law, they should make a complaint directly to the regulated firm. If they are still not satisfied with the response they receive from the regulated firm, they can refer their complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO).

Pension Provisions

Questions (284)

Dara Calleary

Question:

284. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the conditions by which a person can draw down a portion of their AVCs early; the taxation consequences that apply; and if he plans to make changes in this area. [38769/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) are contributions that an individual can make to an occupational pension scheme in the public or private sector, in addition to their normal contributions, to increase her retirement benefits. An individual can choose the rate at which they contribute to an AVC. Tax relief is available on the amount the individual pays, subject to statutory age-related and overall income limits per tax year.

An individual can only make AVCs into a pension scheme if the rules of the particular scheme permit them. Alternatively, a Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) product should be made available by the employer for the purposes of making AVCs.

Where AVCs are paid, the benefits are subject to the rules of the individual’s scheme and the Revenue limits applying to occupational pension schemes. Access to AVCs is therefore normally available only upon retirement.

Section 782A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 allowed members of occupational pension schemes a three-year period, from 27 March 2013 to 26 March 2016, during which they could draw down, on a once-off basis, up to 30% of the accumulated value of their AVCs. The amount drawn down was subject to income tax under Schedule E, PRSI and USC, which was collected under the PAYE system. This provision applied for that three-year period only.

I have no plans to make any additional changes in this area.