Finance (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Bill has three Parts, the first of which relates to the Short Title, commencement and definitions sections. The second Part provides amendments to the legislation governing the Tax Appeals Commission, primarily to implement recommendations of an independent review carried out in 2018. The third Part relates to the transposition of the EU prospectus regulations via an amendment to Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014.

On Part 2, I will provide Deputies with some background information on the Tax Appeals Commission, TAC, and the independent review of 2018. The commission was established on 21 March 2016 under the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015 and took over from the Office of the Appeal Commissioners. It was established as an independent body having its own Vote and Accounting Officer with a view to providing increased transparency and an enhanced appeals mechanism for taxpayers. Since its establishment, staffing at the commission has increased from two commissioners and four administrative staff to five commissioners and 22 administrative staff at various grades as of the end of September 2019. However, a number of factors have contributed to the development of a backlog of appeals, including the facts that the commission inherited a substantial number of legacy appeals and that the process for appeals changed on the establishment of the commission, resulting in appeals now being notified to the commission in the first instance rather than to Revenue.

On foot of the growing backlog and requests for significant additional resources, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, commissioned an independent review of the workload and operations of the TAC in 2018. The review, which examined the governance structures, workload and operations of the commission, was conducted by Ms Niamh O'Donoghue, a former Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The resulting report was published on budget day in October 2018. The Minister has expressed his full support for the recommendations and work on implementation is ongoing within the Department and the commission.

There has been a near doubling of the commission's budget to accommodate the recommended staff increases and improvements to computer systems and equipment. Following a competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service, the Minister authorised the appointment of three additional temporary appeal commissioners, two of whom will take up their appointments this month. The recommended additional administrative and technical posts were sanctioned and recruitment by the commission for these posts is nearing completion. There is enhanced regular contact between the commission and the Department on governance matters and corporate supports. An administrative working group meets regularly to address issues arising between the commissioners and Revenue in the administration of appeals.

The Bill will enable the progression of another key recommendation of the review carried out by Ms O'Donoghue, namely, the appointment of a chairperson of the TAC. Amendments to the legislation governing the commission are required to establish the role and responsibilities of the chairperson and thus allow for his or her recruitment. Section 5 provides for the appointment of a chairperson and specifies his or her functions. The Bill provides that the chairperson, who will also be an appeal commissioner, will be responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of the commission and accountable to the Minister for Finance in this regard. It is envisaged that the establishment of a commission chairperson will strengthen the body's governance and accountability while bringing its structure in line with those of similar bodies. This section also provides for the resignation or removal from office of the chairperson.

Section 8 provides that a commissioner's term of appointment shall not exceed 14 years.

Section 11 provides for the allocation of responsibility for the issuing of reports under section 21 of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015 to the chairperson.

The Bill will also clarify some aspects of the existing appeals legislation to facilitate the appeals process. Section 12 amends provisions relating to appeals against determinations alleged to be erroneous on a point of law. The amendment clarifies that a party dissatisfied with a determination must clearly state the respect in which the determination is alleged to be erroneous on a point of law, in addition to stating dissatisfaction with the determination.

Section 13 provides for amendments to requirements in respect of the presentation of documents for inclusion in a case stated to the High Court. This amendment clarifies the requirements for appellants and commissioners with regard to the case stated process under which an appellant may appeal a decision of the commission to the High Court. It is anticipated that this amendment will increase case management efficiency.

Section 4 will remove any ambiguity as to the ability of the commission to enter into contract, thereby guaranteeing its independence.

The third Part of the legislation will amend Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014 as part of the transposition of the EU prospectus regulations directive. Ireland's prospectus framework is implemented into domestic legislation through statutory instrument and Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014. The Bill provides for amendments to Part 23, which are necessary to complete the transposition into Irish law of EU Regulation No. 2017/1129 of the European Parliament and the Council on the prospectus to be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market. The regulation entered into force on 21 July 2019 and repealed the 2003 prospectus directive. Although the majority of the regulation is directly effective, certain provisions had to be transposed into Irish law through the European Union (Prospectus) Regulations 2019, contained in Sl 380/2019, which were enacted on 19 July 2019.

The EU regulation harmonises the requirements for the drawing up, approval and distribution of the prospectus that must be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market. It aims to help companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, SMEs, access more diverse sources of finance by simplifying the rules applying to prospectus documents while maintaining appropriate investor protections. The regulation aims to reduce the overall cost and administrative burden for companies that are required to issue a prospectus, while enabling investors to make informed investment decisions on the basis of the information provided being accurate, comprehensible, concise and easy to analyse. It was originally intended that the required changes to Ireland's prospectus framework would be made through a consolidated secondary instrument. However, on the basis of legal advice it was deemed necessary to make some amendments through primary legislation.

The amendments to Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014 provided for in the Bill are mainly technical in nature.

Section 15 updates the relevant legal references to refer to the 2017 EU regulation and its associated delegated Acts, and to update the definition of "local offer" to reflect the increase in threshold to €8 million. The threshold exempting securities offerings from the requirement to issue a prospectus is being increased from the current €5 million limit to €8 million, as provided for in the 2017 EU regulation. Once this change is made, SMEs making securities offerings up to €8 million can submit a local offer filing to the Companies Registration Office instead of having to issue a full prospectus. This allows SMEs to more easily access capital market funding as an alternative to relying on bank financing.

Section 17 transposes the provisions contained in Article 11 of the EU regulation restricting the civil liability of certain persons involved in issue of the prospectus unless the prospectus is deemed to be deliberately misleading, inaccurate or omits key information.

Given the increased local offer threshold, and following consultation with the Central Bank of Ireland, section 21 provides for additional disclosure requirements to be inserted into the local offer regime to improve the investor protections currently in place in section 1361 of the Act. These requirements are related to the filing that must be made with the Companies Registration Office and serve to enhance the protection of investors that wish to participate in local offers.

Section 25 provides for transitional measures from the Prospectus (Directive 2003/71/EC) Regulations 2005 to the European Union (Prospectus) Regulations 2019.

I wish to indicate to the House that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, may need to bring forward a technical amendment on Committee Stage. The Department is consulting with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on this point and I look forward to discussing this important legislation further with the committee.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. On behalf of Fianna Fáil, I welcome the Bill. For some time, we have highlighted the very significant issues arising in the Tax Appeals Commission, not least the lengthy backlog in the number of cases before it. The commission has only been in existence since 2016, having replaced an earlier entity, and it inherited a significant number of cases. From responses to parliamentary questions that we submitted, I understand that as of the end of June 2019, the commission has under its remit approximately 3,543 active appeals. I do not know if that figure has changed much since June but it is a very large number. The problem has been growing in recent times. I sincerely hope that the measures that have been implemented and which are about to be implemented will make a positive difference as having an efficient appeals system is an integral part of any tax system. Our system has not been efficient to date. This has caused reputational damage and has resulted in certain cases languishing within the system for a long number of years. This is not good enough.

The figures we have been provided through parliamentary answers and in the Oireachtas Library and Research Service briefing note on the Bill show that in 2016, more that 2,300 appeals were received and 200 were closed. In 2017, more than 1,700 appeals were received and fewer than 700 were closed, while in 2018, almost 1,700 were received and more 1,400 were closed. Although that was an improvement, the number which came in was still larger than the number which were closed. In 2019, the figures up to the end of June show that 672 were received and 580 files were closed. The gap is narrowing and the number of files being closed is approaching the number coming in but the backlog has not been addressed. That is why we welcomed the independent review, the O'Donoghue report to which the Minister of State referred, which made important recommendations on governance, independence, corporate supports, IT services, additional resources including at commissioner level - and I welcome the progress on that - as well as the recruitment of staff and the recommendation that the Public Appointments Service should be engaged with by the Tax Appeals Commission. It made proposals for dealing with backlogs and on process improvements, as well as recommendations about legislation to help the appeal commissioners, the staff working at the Tax Appeals Commission, to address the backlog. The last budget provided just under €3 million to implement the recommendations in the O'Donoghue report. We sought that and welcomed it and now the issue is about delivery.

The Minister of State provided an update on some of those key recommendations in his opening remarks. The Minister has authorised the appointment of three additional temporary appeal commissioners, two of whom will take up their appointments this month. That is a very welcome development. Additional administrative and technical posts were sanctioned and recruitment is nearing completion. Hopefully, within a short time, we will see the lack of resources in staffing being addressed. There was a shortage of resources compared with the volume of cases that came before the appeals commission, as well as the complexity of the cases. We welcome this. Fianna Fáil will support any measure that helps to further address the backlog and make the appeals commission even more efficient.

As the Minister of State noted, the appointment of a chairperson on a statutory basis was an important recommendation. That is now being given effect in this legislation, which lays out the role of the chairperson. That is an important and necessary reform. I also welcome the administration working group meeting regularly on the issues arising between the commissioners and the Revenue Commissioners on the administration of appeals. If we are being honest about it, issues have arisen between the Revenue Commissioners and the appeals commissioners on the process, where issues should be dealt with, whether the Revenue Commissioners were dealing in an open and transparent way, upfront, with matters that were brought to their attention or complaints that were brought to them and which might not have had to go as far as the appeals process. It is important that this is dealt with and that there is now regular contact between the commission and the Department of Fiance on governance and corporate supports. There had been a communications deficit between the appeal commission and the Department of Finance, so I welcome progress on that front.

I wish to raise a related issue, namely, the number of amended assessments which have been issued by the Revenue Commissioners recently. It has led to some concern about certainty and consistency. I am sure that in each case, Revenue could outline new information that came to its attention, changing interpretation of facts and perhaps of tax law. However I will outline the numbers. Revenue issued 337 amended assessments in 2015. It increased in the next year to 458 and in 2017 it was 664 and in 2018, it increased to 915. The number of reassessments made by Revenue has been growing significantly, resulting in a substantial increase in the liability from amending the assessment. There was one case in particular that accounts for a substantial chunk of that but there is a trend. I do not know what the explanation for that is but it is important that the reason the number of reassessments issued by Revenue has almost trebled over four years be examined.

I accept that can happen for a variety of reasons, including because of additional disclosures by the taxpayers concerned, because of the outcome of a Revenue audit, because of another compliance intervention or because of a previous expression of doubt in a tax return. These matters are laid out in a reply I received in the summer to a parliamentary question, but it is worth highlighting the issue on the floor of the House because it has been a marked trend that has emerged in recent times.

I turn to the other key aspect of the Bill which is completely unrelated, namely, the transposition of the prospectus regulation. As a party, we have no issue with it and support it. It will amend section 23 of the Companies Act 2014 as part of the transposition of the EU prospectus regulations directive. It is an important step. The key issue that is worth noting is that there is an updating of the definition of a local offer to reflect the increase in the threshold to €8 million from €5 million. That will mean that some small and medium enterprises, SMEs, making securities offerings up to the €8 million can submit a local offer filing to the Companies Registration Office, instead of having to issue a full prospectus. The Minister of State has made the point that it may mean that these SMEs will be able to access capital market funding in the future more easily as an alternative to relying on bank financing. That will be welcome if it broadens the potential sources of funding they can access without having to adhere to the strict requirements of a formal prospectus offering which, rightly, is heavily regulated. The regulation is being updated as a result of the transposition of these EU regulations.

We look forward to examining the Bill in a detailed manner on Committee Stage. The Minister of State has made reference to the Minister bringing forward what he says is a technical amendment which we will examine when it is brought forward.

I am happy to hand over to my colleague, Deputy Fleming.

I thank Deputy Michael McGrath for agreeing to share time with me.

I acknowledge that this is important legislation. It deals with an issue that has been discussed at length at both the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach and the Committee of Public Accounts in the past year or two. We support the Bill, with which the Committee of Public Accounts will be happy as we have discussed the lack of adequate resources and commissioners to deal with the cases which lead to a build up and a backlog, both in monetary terms and in the number of appeals. We are happy to see progress being made in dealing with the issue. I want to start on a positive note by saying we acknowledge this.

I want to highlight the following in order that people will understand it. The commission was set up in 2016 and given a budget allocation of €1.5 million. In year one over one third of the budget was returned unspent. In 2017 it received an allocation of €1.7 million and again about one third was returned unspent to the Exchequer at the end of the year. I am pleased that from a budget of €1.7 million last year, the Estimate for the Tax Appeals Commission, there has been a fantastic increase in 2019 to in excess of €3 million, which represents almost a 100% increase. That is great and we want to see the money being properly spent and utilised and I hope not being returned to the Exchequer, as happened previously.

From that point of view, we appreciate the strides that have been made, but the Minister will have to accept that we are playing catch-up. This issue should have been dealt with in 2016 when the legislation was being established, rather than setting up an office, seeing how it went and coming back after a couple of years only to realise it was not working efficiently. These issues were foreseeable. The Committee of Public Accounts was clear in its recommendation when it stated: "Prior to the establishment of the Tax Appeals Commission in March 2016 there was a failure by the Department of Finance to fully establish the nature and level of resources it would require to carry out its statutory functions". I accept that was a valid and an objective criticism by the Committee of Public Accounts. I also accept that there is a good response at this point to deal with the issue because the lack of resources was a key issue.

We had detailed discussions at the Committee of Public Accounts, as the Minister of State's officials will know. The failure in the Department of Finance - it is a cross-government issue - arises from the fact that when a new body is set up, the amount of money spent will increase. It will attract more appeals, but that fact was not fully factored in in considering the workload of the Tax Appeals Commission. However, at this stage we are happy to see additional resources being provided. There was criticism and extra commissioners have been sanctioned. The commission stated it was not given the back-up and technical staff required to do its work. I hope that issue has been addressed and that the Minister of State will say staffing levels have been increased. I again say the approved number of employees last year was 18 and that the approved number this year is 33. I do not know what the current figure is, but that is an indication that we are beginning to get it right, which is important. It is good to report progress where it is seen.

That leads me to the question of the backlog and the arrears of tax in dispute. That is on what I want to concentrate in the few minutes available to me. It was made clear to us that the amount in dispute at the end of 2017 was about €1.6 billion. We were concerned that excessive delays in finalising appeals caused by inadequate resources might - I do not know what the definite position is - result in the imposition of additional interest charges on unsuccessful appellants. That would potentially be a factor if they were to be unsuccessful and delayed excessively. As I cannot say this definitively, perhaps it might be clarified on Committee Stage whether extra interest was charged during the appeals process or if the clock was stopped. I would be equally worried if the clock was stopped on extra interest in cases under appeal if somebody felt it was possible to lodge an appeal to stop the clock on extra interest for a couple of years. I am not expressing a view, but on Committee Stage I would like the Minister of State to set out the position for the information of the public, the House, practitioners and taxpayers in general.

We move on to the situation where the Tax Appeals Commission had to move to new offices during the process. There was some argy-bargy between the Office of Public Works, OPW, and the commission at the Committee of Public Accounts. We will not go there, but I will just say it was unseemly at the time. Perhaps it is good that we got under the bonnet to see what happens when the OPW moves people. It moved people from the Department of Health and the lesson is that the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform do not do everything as well as everybody seems to think they do. That is all I will say about the matter. When one looks at any example where it moves a big office from one location to another, there are a lot of problems left in its wake that should have been foreseeable. Let us hope that is all history at this stage. We want to move on in a positive way and see the new chairperson appointed as soon as possible.

When the commission took over legacy appeals from the Revenue Commissioners, we were told at the Committee of Public Accounts that approximately 2,000 cases were already in the system. A significant number had come through from Revenue and they were not being dealt with. We were told at the meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts in July 2018 that there were 5,622 appeals related to 2,505 appellants in process. The Minister of State might clarify the number for information before Committee Stage. I ask him to separate the number of appeals from appellants when he is discussing the matter because there could be an appellant with multiple appeals. People are not clear on what we are talking about when it comes to the numbers of appeals and appellants. There can be an overlap. I am reading from what was said at the Committee of Public Accounts, to which it would have responded in due course. I just wanted to clarify the matter.

Another issue that I am at pains to point out - it is probably in the interests of the Department of Finance that it be pointed out - is that at that stage the tax arrears in dispute were approximately €1.8 billion, but the outstanding liabilities were approximately €1.3 billion. Therefore, the point is that some companies made their payments in advance, but the matter of whether they should have paid it was in dispute. It was really an issue of overpaid tax being in dispute. The value of the cases amounted to €1.8 billion, but that was not the estimated amount of tax outstanding. Some of the appeals, if successful, would result in refunds because of previous overpayments. They are not quite the same.

I move to what I call some of the high value cases. This issue is not dealt with in the legislation.

I ask the Departments of Finance and Justice and Equality to work on the number of high value appeals going to court. While those cases are on the Tax Appeals Commission's books, in a way its hands are tied.

The Committee of Public Accounts wants to ensure we are collecting the tax due to the State in order that we can pay for public services because it is taxpayers' money. The committee was told by the Tax Appeals Commission that in 2018 three cases involving over €100 million were in dispute, as were 14 cases involving a sum in excess of €10 million. I want to outline the information we received at the committee, which was correct as of 11 July. We asked for information on the ten largest cases, because that is where the big money is. We never asked about the category of industry or the types of taxpayer involved. We only asked about the category of taxation. Of the ten largest cases, nine relate to corporation tax, while one is in respect of an environmental levy. The Tax Appeals Commission gave us that information during the summer recess. There are three cases in which the outstanding amount in dispute is between €30 million and €50 million, which combined could be up to €150 million. In four cases the amount in dispute is between €50 million and €100 million, which potentially could add up to €400 million. There are a further three cases where the amount in dispute is in excess of €100 million. The estimated value of these three cases, based on the information presented to the Committee of Public Accounts, is €2 billion. There are ten cases where the estimated amount in dispute is €2.5 billion. We have asked for a progress report on these cases. I again stress that we do not identify the companies or the category of industry as it could help to identify them.

In two of the biggest cases the appeal is not sufficiently advanced to give us a timeline for when the cases might be dealt with. In one case the High Court has imposed a stay on progressing the appeal, pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings. I do not know which three cases they are, but we have seen a pattern of cases going to court. I am worried that we will see billions of euro being tied up in the courts and that the Tax Appeals Commission will not be able to deal with them because they have been referred to court. These are cases in which there have been no payments to date. I ask the Minister of State to talk to his colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality in the interests of taxpayers. If cases involving a sum of over €100 million, or even much lower figures, are being held up in the courts, we need a mechanism to deal with them speedily. If money is due, it should be paid. The courts system must expedite these cases in order that we can have early conclusions one way or the other and provide certainty for taxpayers and the public. The large amount of money has crept up from €1.5 billion to over €3 billion and I do not want to see it escalating further.

All in all, we welcome the legislation, which is good and important. However, we have to watch the big cases that are building up.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille atá os ár gcomhair inniu. Déileálann an Bille seo le dhá rud faoi leith, sé sin iad siúd ag cuardach achomharc ó thaobh cúrsaí cánach de, agus na rialacha agus regulations ó thaobh prospectus de. Pléifidh mé an dá rud sin i gcoinne a chéile.

Leasóidh mír 5 den Bhille seo mír 4 den Bille a thug muid isteach i 2015, sé sin an Acht um Achomharc Cánach. Sin an Bille a bhunaigh an Coimisiún um Achomharc Cánach ag an am, agus a scrios an oifig a bhí ann roimhe sin. Tá a fhios againn na fáthanna a bhain le cruthú an oifig nua sin ag an am: Bhí sé ann chun cinneadh a dhéanamh ó thaobh na disputes idir iad siúd a bhíonn ag íoc cáin agus iad siúd atá an ceart acu ón Stát seo an cáin a lorg, sé sin na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim. Déileálann an Coimisiún um Achomharc Cánach le cuid mhór ábhair faoi leith ó thaobh cúrsaí cánach de, VRT, capital gains tax, credits, allowances agus a leithead mar sin. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil fadhbanna san oifig seo. Bhí gá budget níos mó a thabhairt dó i 2015, nuair a mhéadaigh an budget ó €1.6 milliún go €3.2 milliún, agus tá go leor sriain ar an oifig ag an bpointe seo.

I welcome the Bill before us. It deals with two issues, one being tax appeals and the other the prospectus regulation. I will deal with each of them in turn.

Section 5, as outlined in the Bill, amends section 4 of the Tax Appeals Act 2015. That Act established the Tax Appeals Commission which replaced the Office of the Appeals Commissioners. The Tax Appeals Commission was established as an independent body to settle tax-related disputes between Revenue and taxpayers. It covers a wide range of issues as diverse as the refusal of tax allowances or credits, the valuation of assets for the purposes of capital gains tax, the valuation of imported vehicles for the purposes of VRT and much more. When it was first established, it had two commissioners, each of whom was appointed directly by the Minister for Finance. It was then necessary to increase the commission's budget from €1.6 million to €3.2 million, partly owing to the increased number of appeals being made to the commission. It is worth noting that in 2018 the commission closed 1,400 tax appeal cases, with the combined amounts of tax involved exceeding €560 million. The commission does not deal in small change and is dealing with a huge amount of work. It is also worth noting that the work involved and the appeals process can often be very slow, legalistic and increasingly bureaucratic.

The legislation proposes to amend section 4 of the Tax Appeals Act to allow the Minister to appoint a chairperson to the commission on foot of a recommendation from the review of the workload and operation of the Tax Appeals Commission. It will create a mechanism to establish, monitor and enforce standards in the performance of functions of individual commissioners.

Section 5 provides for the general functions of the chairperson who will generally control the overall administration and business of the commission. Importantly, it provides that the chairperson will have specific responsibility to ensure the integrity of the commission's accounting and financial reporting system. Additionally, the chairperson must ensure compliance with freedom of information and data protection laws, which is very important.

Section 12 amends the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and provides that an appellant to the High Court must state his or her disagreement with the determination of the Tax Appeals Commission prior to the hearing. Section 13 amends the same Act, but requires the appellant to present all relevant exhibits to a case stated to the High Court rather than to the Tax Appeals Commission. While I understand the rationale for these two amendments, it is important that the provisions do not excessively impede the ability of the taxpayer to appeal a determination by the Tax Appeals Commission. It is crucial that there be no impediment to an appeal made to the High Court in good faith and with justification. It needs to be finely balanced. We will examine that issue on Committee Stage.

Without making a premature judgment, there are issues and these provisions are worthy of due scrutiny when the Bill reaches Committee Stage. The ultimate purpose of the provisions is to streamline and hasten the tax appeals process, offering a speedy resolution at minimum cost and optimum outcome for the parties involved. It is a worthy and noble cause, but while it does not concern the immediate provisions of the Bill, it is worth remembering that the Government, with the support of Fianna Fáil, has lodged its own tax appeal with the European Court of Justice. However, in this case, it is trying to ensure it will not receive €14 billion in tax due to the taxpayer.

Moreover, so far the appeal is costing the taxpayer more than €7 million. This appeal does not offer a speedy resolution, does not offer minimum cost and certainly does not provide an optimal outcome for the people. It lies in stark contrast to the aspirations of the legislation the Minister of State has brought before the House. It is not much to assume that the Government's Apple tax appeal is one that the future chairperson of the TAC would find difficult to understand.

On a different issue, sections 15 to 25 deal with the second issue on the legislation, which is the prospectus regulations. These are quite separate from the issue of tax appeals in their entirety. To this end, the Bill will amend Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014, in part to transpose EU regulations, which had a deadline of 21 July this year. A prospectus is a document that issuers have to publish when making a public offer of securities or seeking securities admission to trading on the European market. For this reason, the provisions in the Bill are technical in nature and are mostly concerned with protecting investors in these markets.

Section 15 increases the current offer of securities that can be made without a prospectus from the current sum of €5 million to €8 million. Securities below €8 million, therefore, will no longer be subject to this prospectus framework. While I understand that this provision in the section and the other sections that also deal with it was made to make it easier for small businesses to raise money instead of relying exclusively on the banking sector, it is important that a balance is reached between capital market access for smaller companies and the necessary safeguards and oversight. That needs to be teased out in detail on Committee Stage. A similar prospectus threshold in Germany, Austria and Sweden is set at €5 million, which is the current level in Ireland, and they have not seen fit or identified the need at this point to increase it to the €8 million figure that is suggested here.

In conclusion, tuigim go bhfuil an Bille seo iontach teicniúil, agus caithfear é a scrúdú go mion nuair a théann sé go dtí an choiste. Déanfaimid ár ndícheall i Sinn Féin mar go mbíonn níos mó sonraí soiléar nuair a thagann sé os comhair an choiste. Beidh deis againn ansin, in éineacht leis an Aire agus oifigí na Rinne, mionscrúdú a dhéanamh ar na rannóga agus na hábhair difriúil atá á phlé anseo. Beidh muid in ann na hábhair teicniúil a tharraingt amach agus a mhíniú níos mine, sa dóigh is go mbeidh sé intuigthe ag gach duine, ní amháin cén fáth go bhfuil muid á dhéanamh seo agus go bhfuil an Rialtas á iarradh, ach go dtigfidh daoine go bhfuil cosaintí ansin, agus go bhfuil siad mar is ceart. Caithfimid cinntiú nach bhfuilimid ag déanamh athruithe don reachtaíocht ar thaobh amháin ach ag tarraingt siar cuid de na cosaintí sin ar thaobh eile. Go raibh maith agat.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Doherty. Ag tabhairt in áireamh nach bhfuil aon duine eile anseo le labhairt, rachaimid ar ais go dtí an Aire Stáit chun achoimre a dhéanamh.

I thank Deputies Pearse Doherty, Sean Fleming and Michael McGrath for their reflections on the proposed legislation. It is complicated and technical, and we will get into it in more detail. I will touch upon as many of the issues that I can. The figure of 3,600 cases or thereabouts was referred to earlier. The current figure - as of this week - is 3,479 cases with an overall quantum of €2.6 billion.

Deputy McGrath referred to the amended tax assessments. The Deputy will be aware that Revenue has independence in the administration of the tax system and the Minister cannot and will not, nor would he wish to, interfere with Revenue on this matter. I note the Deputy's concerns and will actively bring those to the Minister and his officials to engage with Revenue to try to understand any emerging trends such as those the Deputy McGrath mentioned. The chairperson will also be an appeals commissioner, which is important. We hope that this, together with the three additional temporary commissioners, will enable significant inroads to be made in the appeals backlog. Nobody benefits from having too long an appeal on the matter.

Deputy Doherty referred to section 13. This was discussed at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. Some concerns were voiced regarding proposed changes due to the procedures for the case stated. In the report of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, requested further consideration of whether the TAC should be able to request either party to an appeal to provide documentation in the case stated so that all required and appropriate documentation is available to the High Court. That has been taken on board and the change was made when drafting section 13, which reflects this suggestion. The amendment will allow the commission to request documentation of either party regarding the case stated.

Other points were made in the pre-legislative scrutiny with regard to the prospectus. Deputy Doherty highlighted the prospectus threshold in other countries. They are retaining their prospectus at €5 million but a number of other EU member states such as the UK - for however much longer - and France, Denmark, Finland and Italy are to increase their prospectus threshold to €8 million. We want to try to give companies the opportunity to source funding beyond bank lending. Beyond banks, our jurisdiction has few sources of moneys to companies. For the vast majority in this jurisdiction, it is how companies bring in funding. In other jurisdictions, it is much less. In the US, for example, it is approximately 30%.

The Central Bank will also serve to enhance the protections. I am sure we will go through these in much more detail on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.