As the Deputy will be aware, it is a longstanding practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment, in advance of the Budget, on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.
In relation to the issue of the illicit trade in solid fuels, as I, and my predecessor, have pointed out before, the collection of solid fuel carbon tax is heavily reliant on the regulatory regime covering the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of solid fuels in the State. This regulatory regime is operated by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is enforced by local authorities. This regime, which imposes higher environmental standards on coal in the State than applies in Northern Ireland, enables local authorities to undertake enforcement action to prevent the sale or distribution of coal that does not meet our standards.
European Union Single Market constraints preclude the use of any cross-border movement controls in the administration of Solid Fuel Carbon Tax. Therefore, Revenue has no authority to stop vehicles and physically inspect loads of such fuel. Similarly, the transport or possession of solid fuels that originated in Northern Ireland are not, in themselves, Revenue offences and Revenue’s officers have no authority to challenge such transportation or possession. It is important to note that liability to Solid Fuel Carbon Tax does not arise on the physical presence of the goods in the State, but on first supply in the State by the supplier who is obliged to register with Revenue, make a return and pay the tax. This return must be made one month after the two-month accounting period provided for in law.
I am advised that Revenue is in contact with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to discuss the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for solid fuel and to explore how to improve matters in light of continuing concerns that fuel sourced from Northern Ireland is getting onto the market here, including the scope for cooperation to ensure improved compliance in the sector.