As the Deputy is aware, the independent review of the Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) makes a number of recommendations which I support in full. Progress has been made on implementing these recommendations since the publication of the review on Budget Day last year.
Proposed legislation was submitted before Cabinet today (19 February) for approval. This legislation will provide for the role and responsibilities of a Chairperson of the TAC and recruitment for a Chairperson will commence immediately following enactment. It will also clarify some aspects of the existing appeals legislation to facilitate the appeals process.
The Appeals Commissioners and my Department are in regular contact about governance matters and corporate supports. Work is ongoing to identify the supports required and assist the TAC in putting the necessary governance structures in place. A new administration working group (which includes the Commissioners, and officials from my Department and the Revenue Commissioners) has been formed and meets regularly to address issues relating to the administration of tax appeals.
I provided for a near doubling of the TAC budget for 2019 to facilitate the recommended staff increases and improvements to computer equipment. The TAC have sought to increase their staff complement through recruitment as per the recommendations of the report. A permanent head of administration at Principal Officer grade will commence work at the Commission on 27 February. This follows a number of seconded Principal Officers from my Department who filled the role on a fixed term basis.
A competition for Temporary Appeal Commissioners is due to be launched by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) this week. The competition will seek to fill two positions (or full-time equivalents) with immediate effect and to establish a panel of suitable candidates should further appointments be required. Consideration will be given to applicants with relevant experience from a range of professional backgrounds, including those with experience in Revenue or in Customs as well as those with qualifications in tax and in the legal field.
As recommended by the review, the TAC has requested the PAS to appoint an IT specialist at the grade of Assistant Principal Officer. With the appointment of this position an ICT Liaison Group will commence meetings. This will include officials from the TAC, Revenue and the Department of Finance, who will meet to discuss and develop specifications for a new appeal case management system, as well as other IT matters. In the interim, work has commenced to address existing IT hardware needs within the TAC.
The TAC have also requested the PAS to appoint four Clerical Officers. These roles should be filled shortly. Overall, the aim is to double the TAC’s staff complement over the course of 2019, from 17 to 33.
While a backlog of appeals remains, the addition of Temporary Appeal Commissioners and support staff should allow the TAC to make progress in addressing the current active appeals on hand. Further recruitment, such as the appointment of a Chairperson of the Commission as well as additional case managers as recommended by the review, will help to further reduce delays in the processing of appeals.
I am conscious that an effective tax appeals process is an essential part of a functioning tax system and my officials will continue to keep all matters relating to the TAC under active review until such time as the backlogs are addressed.