I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.
My Department makes capital payments to school authorities, including Educational and Training Boards (ETBs), in relation to projects delivered under the School Building Programme and various grants such as the Minor Works Grant Scheme. Under tax law, a school authority is regarded by the Revenue Commissioners as the "Principal Contractor" for tax purposes when it is delivering a building project. My Department advises a school authority of this at the time the grant for the works is being approved. Schools are also advised that the Revenue Commissioners has published a guidance document for school management authorities in this matter which is available on both my Department’s website and the Revenue Commissioners’ website.
The Department-funded Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU), which operates in the Primary, Community, Comprehensive and Voluntary Secondary Sectors, is an important source of advice and support for schools on financial governance matters including tax compliance including RCT requirements.
The main requirement for a school authority to meet its obligations when delivering a school building project is to register with the Revenue Commissioners’ online system and to follow the Revenue Commissioners’ guidance in relation to deducting and paying over tax, where this arises, for the contractor carrying out the works.
It is a central principle that all bodies in receipt of Exchequer funding should be fully compliant with tax regulations and it is a core responsibility of the boards of these bodies to ensure such compliance.
The stipulations of the Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies in respect of taxation apply in the Department's aegis bodies. More generally, the provisions regarding tax clearance for bodies in receipt of grant funding are set out in the appropriate circulars issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, namely circular 13/2014 (management and accountability of grants) and circular 44/2006 (tax clearance procedures - grants, subsidies and similar type payments).
With respect to schools, the Department has issued a circular to all management authorities (circular 51/2013) on tax compliance. This circular set out the Department's expectation that all schools should be exemplary in respect of compliance with taxation obligations and drew their attention to relevant Revenue documentation. In the ETB sector, the bodies are subject to audit by the ETB Internal Audit Unit and are externally audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Capital payments for projects undertaken by higher education institutions are made through the Higher Education Authority (HEA). An institution must confirm that it is tax compliant before a payment is made by the HEA.
To enhance awareness of tax issues across the education sector, the Department has arranged periodic seminars in conjunction with Revenue. The last such seminar was held in December 2017.
With respect to suppliers of goods and services, the Department validates suppliers via the Revenue eTax Clearance system on a regular basis.