Tá áthas orm deis a bheith agam labhairt ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. My matter concerns the loss of entitlements to more than 5,000 shareholders in Standard Life plc due to inordinate postal delays. It is an incredible situation that approximately 5,300 citizens will incur a tax bill due to delays in our postal service. The United Kingdom insurer, Standard Life, sold its Canadian affiliate and returned payment to shareholders. A large number of Irish shareholders wrote to Standard Life, stating they wanted their payment treated as capital, so as to enable them to avoid paying tax on most or all of the moneys they were due. Otherwise, they would be liable to income tax at the rate of 51% if the payment was not designated as such.
The farcical situation occurred that these 5,300 citizens found the letters to Standard Life did not reach the company on time to have their wishes implemented at the emergency general meeting held to deal with the sale of the Canadian affiliate. One batch of post did not arrive until six weeks after it was posted. Neither An Post nor the Royal Mail has accepted responsibility. Incredibly, there is no traceability of more than 5,000 letters. There is a rumour that they ended up in Roscommon but there is no proof of that. They certainly did not reach the United Kingdom in time. Unfortunately, An Post is immune from all liability for loss or damage arising from any delay in providing a universal postal service under the provisions of section 26 of the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011.
As the Minister knows, similar postal delays were experienced when Vodafone returned money to shareholders in Ireland following the sale of its American affiliate. In the 2014 Finance Act, the Minister included provisions allowing for a measure of tax relief to the many thousands of Irish Vodafone shareholders who had a relatively small holding and who, likewise through no fault of their own, found themselves liable to income tax, PRSI and USC, rather than what they expected, namely a zero capital gains tax liability.
I suggest the principle is the same. Irish citizens have lost income due to an inadvertent mistake regarding the return of payment to them after the sale of an affiliate by a parent company. The fact that Vodafone shareholders may have incurred previous losses is neither here nor there. The Minister cannot treat the Vodafone shareholder preferentially and deny the Standard Life shareholder. Both sets of shareholders lost out through no fault of their own. In the forthcoming finance Bill in October, will the Minister consider inserting a provision, similar to that in the 2014 Act, to allow Standard Life shareholders receive a tax relief in a similar fashion, as the same principle underlines this case?