Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 132.

Living City Initiative

Questions (153)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

153. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing the funding allocated to the living cities initiative annually by 50%. [2646/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Living City Initiative (LCI) was provided for in Finance Act 2013 and commenced on 5th May 2015. In my Budget 2020 speech, I announced that the LCI would be extended from 5 May 2020 to 31 December 2022. LCI is designed as a tax-based scheme which is demand led. As such, it is not subject to an annual cost ceiling and the question of increasing its funding annually by 50% does not arise.

LCI is specifically aimed at the regeneration of the historic inner cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford. The scheme provides income or corporation tax relief for qualifying expenditure incurred in refurbishing/converting qualifying buildings which are located within pre-determined 'Special Regeneration Areas' (SRAs).

There are three types of relief available:

- Owner-occupier residential relief;

- Rented residential relief; and

- Commercial/Retail relief.

In 2016 officials from my Department reviewed the measure in consultation with the relevant councils and the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. On foot of that review, a number of changes were brought forward in Budget 2017 in order to make the initiative more attractive and effective.

The principal change extended the residential element of the scheme to landlords, who may now claim the relief by way of accelerated capital allowances for the conversion and refurbishment of property, which was built prior to 1915, where such property is to be used for residential purposes. In addition, the requirement for a pre-1915 building to have been originally constructed for use as a dwelling in order to qualify for the residential element of the Initiative has been removed. The floor area restriction for owner-occupiers has also been removed, while the minimum amount of capital expenditure required for eligibility for relief, under all elements of the scheme, has also been amended and must now only exceed €5,000.

The aim of the above changes is to improve the effectiveness of the scheme. Once it is clear that this have been achieved, it will then be possible to consider if and how the initiative might be extended further, for example to other locations. Unless the underpinning scheme is made more effective, extension of eligibility for it to other locations is likely to be largely ineffective.

I am advised by Revenue that the available information in respect of the cost of the Living City Initiative is published on the Revenue website at link;

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/property-reliefs.aspx

for all years up to 2018. The relevant row in the table is titled ‘Living City’. The following table outlines the cost/uptake for all 3 elements combined of the scheme nationally between 2013 and 2018 (the most recent year for which data are available).

Year

No. of claimants

Max Tax Cost (€M)*

Amount claimed (€M)

2018

27

0.2

0.5

2017

20

0.1

0.4

2016

15

0.2

0.5

2015

13

0.2

0.5

2014

N/A

0.1

0.2

2013

N/A

0.05

0.1

*assumed at 40% for IT and 12.5% for CT.

Help-To-Buy Scheme

Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 133.

Questions (154)

Holly Cairns

Question:

154. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Finance the reason persons (details supplied) do not qualify for the first-time buyer's help-to-buy scheme; if other grants are available to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2682/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Help to Buy (HTB) incentive, is a scheme to assist first-time purchasers with the deposit they need to buy or build a new house or apartment. The incentive gives a refund of Income Tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid in Ireland over the previous four years, subject to limits outlined in the legislation.

In addition to the conditions laid down in section 477C Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA), including that the property is occupied as the sole or main residence of a first time purchaser, section 477C(1) defines a ‘qualifying residence’. The legislation is very specific as to the definition of a qualifying residence. It must be a new building which was not, at any time, used or suitable for use as a dwelling. Renovation or refurbishment of old houses to either upgrade or reinstate them for habitation does not qualify for HTB. The previous dwelling must have been demolished and replaced as opposed to being extended/refurbished. In the circumstances where a house was previously used as a dwelling but knocked down and rebuilt, then it is “new”.

I am advised by Revenue that, based on the information outlined by the Deputy, it appears that, in this case, the applicants are renovating an old house, which would not be considered as “new” for the purposes of the HTB scheme and, accordingly, does not qualify for HTB.

The availability of direct expenditure measures, including grants, for first time buyers is not a matter that would fall within my direct remit.

Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 133.

Tax Forms

Questions (156, 157)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

156. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have refused from 1 January 2021 to issue companies registered in Ireland with A1s for their posted worker employees with Northern Ireland addresses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2763/21]

View answer

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

157. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the legislative or policy basis on which the Revenue Commissioners will no longer provide A1s to posted workers with a Northern Ireland address working for an Irish company. [2764/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

Provisions to post workers to Member States across the EU / EEA and to the United Kingdom and to maintain such workers in the social insurance schemes of their sending Member State, is provided for within EU Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems and in the Protocol on Social Security Coordination of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement entered into in December 2020.

In order for a posting arrangement to be approved and for an A1 certificate to issue, all postings must satisfy long standing eligibility criteria, most notably a requirement for workers to have been attached to the social insurance system of the sending Member State immediately before the start of a proposed posting arrangement. Furthermore, employers seeking to avail of posting provisions must carry out substantial activities other than purely internal management activities, in the territory of the Member State in which they are established.

The International Postings Area within the Department of Social Protection has responsibility for the examination of posting applications and for the provision of A1 certificates when posting arrangements have been approved.

I understand that an official from that Department has been in contact with the Deputy’s constituency office regarding the matter and once further information is made available to that Department, any further clarification will be provided by that Department to the Deputy’s office.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (158)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

158. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that a company (details supplied) operated the temporary wage subsidy scheme correctly; if the national employer unit at the Revenue Commissioners has been contacted by employees of the company regarding its operation of the scheme; if so, the number of occasions; the investigations that have been carried out on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2769/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 imposes an obligation of taxpayer confidentiality on Revenue and accordingly I am advised by Revenue that it is not in a position to comment on the tax affairs of any specific taxpayer.

Accordingly, I propose to respond in general terms in relation to the operation of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the compliance checks conducted by Revenue on all employers who registered for and received funding under TWSS.

The Government's Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) operated by Revenue from 26 March 2020 to 31 August 2020, enabled employees, whose employers were affected by the pandemic, to receive significant supports directly from their employer. TWSS was available to employers who kept their employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so that employers could retain links with employees for when business picked up after the crisis.

If an individual employee has a concern over how his/her employer has operated TWSS, he/she can see the amount of TWSS claimed by their employer on their behalf and included in their wages/salaries by examining their pay slip or by logging on to their Revenue myAccount. Any specific queries in relation to the amount of subsidy received would then be best raised by the individual with that individual’s employer.

I am advised by Revenue that risk focused compliance checks were conducted by Revenue to ensure TWSS was operated correctly by employers who availed of TWSS.

I am advised by Revenue that where an employer received amounts under TWSS, and the employer was, or is, found to have not paid the subsidy amount to the specified employee, or where the employer was not entitled to receive the subsidy as it did not meet the qualifying criteria, or in circumstances where the employee does not meet the eligible employee criteria under the TWSS, the employer is, or would be, required to refund such amounts to Revenue.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 134.

Questions (159)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

159. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his plans to increase the allowance for the disabled passenger scheme in line with the increase in rates of vehicle registration tax, VRT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2781/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. Details of these reliefs and the grant in respect of fuel usage are available on the Revenue website at the following link:

https://www.revenue.ie/en/importing-vehicles-duty-free-allowances/guide-to-vrt/reliefs-and-exemptions/scheme-for-persons-with-disabilities.aspx

The relief from Value Added Tax and Vehicle Registration Tax are generous in nature amounting to up to €10,000, €16,000 or €22,000, depending on the level of adaption required for the vehicle.

It should be noted that the new VRT charging table does not necessarily result in increased VRT rates. VRT is an emissions-based tax and therefore the amount of VRT incurred will vary across different vehicle makes and models. Typically, the new rates structure will result in increases for high emission vehicles, and decreases for lower emission vehicles.

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 134.

Customs and Excise

Questions (161)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

161. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff employed to deal with customs checks at ports and airports in January 2020 and January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2835/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that as an integrated tax and customs administration, Revenue deploys resources based on evolving business needs and to tackle any risks as they emerge.

Over the last 2 years the number of Revenue staff assigned to our ports and airports has more than doubled over previous levels. In January 2020 there were 564 Revenue staff assigned to our ports and airports, while at 1 January 2021, this had increased to 666 staff.

Staff at ports and airports may be involved in a range of trade facilitation and enforcement duties to facilitate the movement of imports from, and exports to, countries outside the EU is in accordance with legislative requirements.

I am advised that Revenue will continue to review and adjust staff deployment in response to business needs, including developments related to the UK's departure from the EU.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (162)

Michael Lowry

Question:

162. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the position of a primary medical certificate application by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when an assessment on this application will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2877/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Following approval of the Finance Act 2020, which provides for the medical criteria for the Disabled Drivers Scheme, the HSE has been informed that medical assessments can recommence from 1st January 2021. This is considered to be an interim solution only. A comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities, will be conducted this year. On foot of that review new proposals will be brought forward for consideration.

Separately, the ability to hold assessments may be impacted on by, among other things, the public health restrictions in place and the role of the HSE Medical Officers in the roll out of the Covid vaccination programme.

Tax Data

Questions (163)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

163. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of all tax expenditures related to housing construction and development supports in 2019. [2885/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

My Department has published a Report on Tax Expenditures with each Budget since Budget 2016 (the Report on Tax Expenditures 2020 published on the day of Budget 2021 being the most recent). The report provides tables, of the extant tax expenditures and where available the number availing and revenue forgone in respect of each of the two most recently available years. It can be found at the following link:

http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2021/Documents/Budget/121020%20Tax%20Expenditures%20Report%202020%20for%20Publication.pdf

The main tax expenditures coming within scope of the Deputy’s question include:

Tax Expenditure

Cost (Most recent year available)

Claims(Most recent year available)

Help to Buy (Income Tax)

€101.3m (2019)

6,603 (2019)

Residential Development Refund Scheme (Stamp Duty)

€9.1m (2019)

954 (2019)

Living City Initiative (Income Tax)

€0.2m (2018)

27 (2018)

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (164)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

164. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Finance if there is provision for the hotel industry during the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of annual standing charges (details supplied). [2947/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The electricity and gas retail markets in Ireland operate within a European Union regulatory regime wherein electricity and gas markets are commercial, liberalised, and competitive. Operating within this overall EU framework, responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets, including the matters raised by the Deputy, is solely a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity and gas markets following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), 1999.

The CRU is an independent statutory Regulator and is accountable for the performance of its functions to the Oireachtas, and not to me as Minister or Government.

The Deputy may wish to note that CRU provides a dedicated email address for Oireachtas members, which enables them to raise questions on energy regulatory matters to CRU at oireachtas@cru.ie for timely direct reply.

Interest Rates

Questions (165)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

165. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider establishing a national scheme or introduce legislation to protect consumer deposits below a certain threshold from negative interest rates, given recent reports that credit unions are being compelled to consider charging their customers fees or negative interest rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2956/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Firstly, I would like to let the Deputy know that I have no statutory role in relation to interest rates. All credit institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Interest rates on deposit accounts are a commercial matter for the boards and management of individual banks. Notwithstanding this, I am not aware of any Irish retail banks charging retail depositors negative interest rates.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), through State Savings products, offers a wide range of savings products to the general public, including prize bonds and fixed rate savings bonds/certificates. Both short term and long term fixed rate products are offered, with maturities from 3 to 10 years.

The interest rates on offer are competitive and provide good value for the holders of State Savings products. The return for the saver rewards those who hold products to maturity. However, early redemption is also possible. The NTMA keeps these products under review and have recently informed me that they continue to see strong flows into these products.

Credit unions have experienced savings inflows over recent years, which have outpaced loan demand from their members. The savings which a credit union does not lend to its members must be invested while ensuring that such investments do not result in undue risk. At the same time, due to low/negative investment returns, reflective of the current low interest rate environment, credit unions may decide to limit the amount of savings to be invested or in some cases, consider the introduction of fees.

This is a commercial decision for individual credit unions where they are of the view that this will best support the ongoing prudent operation of their credit union for their members.

Public Appointments Service

Questions (166, 167)

Matt Shanahan

Question:

166. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is satisfied that the agreed top-level appointments code of practice of the Office of the Commission for Public Servant Appointments was followed in the recent advertisement for the role of Secretary General of the Department of Health. [2182/21]

View answer

Matt Shanahan

Question:

167. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Secretary General of his Department or a person who reports to the Secretary General is part of the top-level appointments committee that undertook the competition for the role of Secretary General of the Department of Health. [2183/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

The position of Secretary General for the Department of Health was advertised on 8 January 2021 by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) at the request of the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC).

The Government has a policy of open recruitment and the role of TLAC, as an independent body, is to support that and ensure that the recruitment and selection process for senior Civil Service posts - at Assistant Secretary General level and upwards - is accessible to the widest pool of qualified candidates.

TLAC operates under the Code of Practice issued by the Commission for Public Service Appointments in accordance with the principles of merit, consistency, accountability, probity, best practice and professional confidentiality.

Further information on the role and functions of TLAC, including details of the membership of TLAC, is available at the following link:https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/baa380-top-level-appointments-committee-tlac/

As noted in the Competition Booklet for this position, which is available at the link below, the deadline for the receipt of applications is 28 January 2021.https://www.publicjobs.ie/restapi/campaignAdverts/128369/booklet

In addition to advertisement on the publicjobs.ie portal, the position has been advertised online on selected relevant websites (Execjobs, The Guardian, the Health Services Journal, sponsored ad on LinkedIn) and through targeted social media. PAS issued job alerts by email and text message to those who have registered their interest in positions at this level on the publicjobs.ie website and TLAC have circulated it to Civil Service Departments as well as other Public Service Bodies.

TLAC will consider any applications received by PAS for the advertised position.

The same recruitment process will apply to all candidates for the position of Secretary General for the Department of Health.

On conclusion of its processes, TLAC may recommend up to three names, in alphabetical order, to the Government, in respect of those candidates considered to be of the standard required for the post.