Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Ceisteanna (49)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

49. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the rise in the amount of taxation assessments in dispute at the Tax Appeals Commission. [45807/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) was established on 21st March 2016, taking over from the former Office of the Appeal Commissioners. Since its establishment, staffing at the Commission has grown from two Commissioners and four administrative staff, to five Commissioners and twenty three administrative staff at various grades as of end-October 2019.

I am advised by the TAC that there were 3,401 open appeals on 31 October, 2019. I am also advised that it is difficult for the TAC to provide a fully accurate quantum figure due to the nature of tax disputes; however at 31 October, 2019 the TAC recorded an estimated quantum of approximately €3.7 billion. Of this amount, €2.5 billion is comprised in 10 appeals, five of which were received by the TAC in the last week of December 2018.

Some appeals cannot be progressed when the Commission has to await the outcome of court proceedings. For example, a stay may have been placed on the progression of the appeals by the TAC by Order of the High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. Of the 10 highest-value appeals before the TAC, two appeals with a combined value of €1.67 billion are currently stayed by Court Order and cannot be progressed by the TAC until the stays are lifted.

Factors which have contributed to the development of a backlog of appeals include:

1. the Commission inheriting a substantial number of legacy appeals on establishment and,

2. the process for appeals changed on establishment, resulting in appeals now being notified to the Commission in the first instance, rather than to Revenue.

Due to the growing backlog and requests for extra resources, I commissioned an independent review of the workload and operations of the Commission in 2018.

The review was conducted by Niamh O’Donoghue, a former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection, and examined the governance structures, workload and operations of the Commission. The resulting report was published on Budget Day last year and is available at the following link - www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2019/Documents/18.%20Independent%20review%20of%20the%20workload%20and%20operations%20of%20the%20Tax%20Appeals%20Commission.pdf.

I expressed my full support for the recommendations. Work on implementation is ongoing both in the Department and the TAC. The following actions have taken place to date:

- A near doubling of the Commission’s budget for 2019 to accommodate the recommendations of the review. This budget has been maintained for 2020.

- The authorisation of the appointment of three additional Temporary Appeal Commissioners, two of whom took up their appointments in September with a further Commissioner to commence in January.

- The recommended additional administrative and technical posts were sanctioned and recruitment for these posts is nearing completion.

- Enhanced regular contact between the Commission and the Department on governance matters and corporate supports is taking place, and

- An administration working group meets regularly to address any issues arising between the Commissioners and Revenue in relation to the administration of appeals.

The Finance (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019 is currently progressing in the Dáil. This Bill will enable progression of another key recommendation of the review, the appointment of a Chairperson.

While a backlog of appeals remains, the additional budget and resources should allow the TAC to make progress in addressing the current backlog. I expect the overall number of appeals on hand, and consequently the quantum of tax under appeal, to begin to decrease steadily over time.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 33.