Bus Services

Ceisteanna (99)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

99. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter on the finalised BusConnects Dublin area bus network (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29383/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including BusConnects.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for their consideration and direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (100)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

100. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29416/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department has 565 staff members (headcount), of these 155 are Assistant Principal Officer grade / equivalent or higher.

A high level organisation chart is available on the Who Does What website, https://whodoeswhat.gov.ie/root/transport/ which provides details of staff at Principal Officer level and above to whom Assignment of Responsibilities have been made under the Public Service Management Act 1997.

I have outlined below the Departmental structure and staffing levels sought by the Deputy and I have instructed my Department to write to the Deputy to provide all relevant contact details requested.

Acting Secretary General: Ken Spratt

- Public Transport and Climate Change - Assistant Secretary: Deirdre Hanlon

Divisions:

- Climate Change Unit – PO: 1, AP: 3

- Sustainable Mobility Investment and Policy Division – PO: 1, AP: 4

- Public Transport Corporate and Services Division– PO: 1, AP: 2

- Public Transport Regulation Division – PO: 1, AP: 4

- Corporate Affairs and Central Policy Coordination - Assistant Secretary: Aine Stapleton

Divisions:

- Corporate Services and Agency Governance Division – PO: 1, AP: 4

- Human Resources Division – PO: 1, AP: 3

- EU and Central Policy Division – PO: 1, AP: 2

- Permanent Representation Brussels – PO: 1, AP: 1

- Reform, Communications and Emergency Planning Division – PO: 1, AP: 3

- Finance Division – PO: 1, AP: 2

- Legal Services Division – Legal Advisor: 2

- Maritime – Assistant Secretary: Deirdre O’Keeffe

Divisions:

- Irish Coastguard – Acting Director: 1, Assistant Director IRCG: 1, Divisional Controller: 2, Manager IRCG: 4, Operations & Training Officer: 8, Electronics Officer: 2

- Marine Survey Office – Chief Surveyor: 1, Deputy Chief Surveyor: 2, Surveyor in Charge: 3, Surveyor: 23

- Maritime Safety Policy Division – PO: 1, AP: 5

- Maritime Services Division – PO: 1, AP: 4

- Maritime Transport – PO: 1, AP: 2

- Strategic Research and Analysis Division – PO: 1, AP: 4

- Internal Audit Unit – AP: 1

- Roads – Assistant Secretary: Ray O’Leary

Divisions:

- Rail Accident Investigation Unit – Chief Railway Accident Investigator: 1, Senior Railway Accident Investigator: 3

- Driver and Vehicle Computer Services Division – PO: 1, AP: 1, Technology Specialist: 1

- Air Accident Investigation Unit – Chief Aeronautical Officer: 1, Aero Officer Grade 1: 8

- Regional and Local Roads Division PO: 1, AP: 1, Engineering Inspector: 1

- National Roads Division – PO: 1, AP: 2

- Road Safety Division – PO: 1, AP: 2

- Road Transport and Freight Policy Division – PO: 1, AP: 1

- Motor Tax Policy Unit – AP: 1

- Aviation – Assistant Secretary: Fintan Towey

Divisions:

- Air Navigation Services Division PO: 1, AP: 2

- Airports Division PO: 1, AP: 3

- Aviation Services Division PO: 1, AP: 3

- Aviation Safety and Security Division PO: 1, AP: 2

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (101)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

101. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider instructing the RSA to waive the requirement for the biannual test for driver instructors which involves spending an hour with a RSA tester in a vehicle in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29432/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Under provisions set out in S.I. No. 203/2009 - Road Traffic (Driving Instructor Licensing) (No. 2) Regulations 2009 the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is legally required to carry out a check test of an Approved Driving Instructor every two years at the very minimum. This test takes the form of an observation by an RSA examiner of a lesson given by the instructor to a learner driver and is considered an essential element in the regulation and continuous professional development of driving instructors.

Driving is a complex and multifaceted skill and instructors shoulder a considerable responsibility in teaching their students to behave safely and responsibly on the roads at all times. It is for this reason that it is imperative that the RSA have a means of ensuring that all instructors maintain the highest of teaching standards in the years after they have completed their initial qualification. It is important that we do not allow the current pandemic to unnecessarily undermine the very significant progress we have made in reducing the impact of road collisions on public health and health services.

Road Safety Authority

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Ceisteanna (102)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

102. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport if the National Driver Licence Service and the RSA will be instructed to allow ADI driver instructors use toilets and hand washing facilities between lessons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29433/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In accordance with the provisions of the Road Safety Authority Act, as enacted by the Oireachtas, this is an operational matter for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and it would therefore not be in accordance with the legislation if I were to issue instructions on such a matter. I have therefore referred the matter to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Road Network

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Ceisteanna (103)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport if he will request TII to investigate the placing of new rumble strips and chevrons as part of roadworks at the junction of the M50 and M11 adjacent to Newvale, Shankill, County Dublin which have resulted in a significant increase in noise levels from the road which is having devastating impact on local residents; if TII will consider replacing them with flexi bollards or another solution that does not have such a detrimental impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29434/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the operation and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the Public Spending Code Guidelines and the necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise you on this issue.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Rail Network

Ceisteanna (104, 105)

Johnny Mythen

Ceist:

104. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Transport if the NTA committee will be reviewed; if qualified railway and freight experts will be included on the panel; the name of personnel who are qualified in rail expertise already on the board (details supplied) [29449/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Johnny Mythen

Ceist:

105. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Transport if freight charges will be reviewed in view of the fact charges here are the highest in Europe and are a disincentive to companies to use Irish Rail as a form of transport. [29450/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have a strong interest in this area and I see potential for the development of rail freight in Ireland.

While the National Transport Authority (NTA) does not have a direct role in the development of rail freight, it does have responsibility for the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network and the provision of public transport infrastructure, including rail. I will have regard to the need for expertise in this area when filling future vacancies on the Board of the NTA.

I recently met with the Chairman and Chief Executive of Irish Rail and we discussed a number of issues, including the company's plans for the development of rail freight.

Irish Rail is preparing a Rail Freight Strategy with the support of outside consultants to guide actions to 2040. The company hopes to have this report complete in the coming months and I have asked that the company also submit the report to me.

The issue of access charges to the rail network for freight is a matter in the first instance for the company and, I would expect, will be reviewed in the Rail Freight Strategy.

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (106)

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

106. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if measures will be taken to address the lengthy waiting lists for driver tests. [29467/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department is remaining in close contact with the RSA who are examining ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints. I am pleased to say, my Department has already given approval to the RSA to retain 18 driver testers on temporary contracts due to expire in October and November, and to rehire up to 19 testers whose contracts expired in May. However, I would like to stress that many of the issues impacting on the delivery of service are concerned with the throughput of centres themselves in light of the restrictions, rather than on the availability of staff.

The RSA are also taking a number of other measures, including increasing the number of tests a driver tester can perform each day from five to six, and scheduling additional overtime tests, including testing on Saturdays to increase capacity.

It is my understanding that those who had appointments cancelled due to Covid 19 are being prioritised in the first instance. Priority then will be given in order of application date. While there is some capacity for urgent test slots, the Road Safety Authority (RSA)'s capacity to make these available in all cases will be limited. Therefore, initially those who are frontline healthcare workers will be deemed eligible for an urgent test slot. This approach for prioritising customers will be kept under review as the RSA moves through the service resumption.

Driver Test

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Ceisteanna (107)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

107. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) will receive a driver test appointment. [29522/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The scheduling of candidates’ driving tests is the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and as Minister, I have no power to intervene in individual cases.

I have therefore referred this question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Tax Reliefs

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Ceisteanna (108, 109)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

108. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the average consumer spend on a Taxsaver commuter ticket; the amount of tax relief consumers receive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29527/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

109. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent on tax relief for commuters each year through the Taxsaver ticket initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29528/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services. In view of this, the issues raised by the Deputy concerning the taxsaver initiative are matters for the relevant transport operators in conjunction with the NTA.

I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Primary Medical Certificates

Ceisteanna (110)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

110. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the guidelines given to HSE local offices for processing primary medical certificate applications following the decision to suspend processing of same in light of the Supreme Court decision in which the court identified that persons deemed eligible for the primary medical certificate under section 92 of the Finance Act 1989 were nonetheless denied the certificate when assessed against Regulation 3 of the 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29297/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the following medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

A Supreme Court decision of 18 June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgement found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.

The Deputy will appreciate that the complex legal and policy issues raised by the Supreme Court decision will require careful consideration. In parallel to that consideration there is a need to examine how best the Scheme can target resources to those persons who most need them. My officials are currently examining the judgement, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, and will bring forward any policy and/or legislative proposals, as necessary, for my consideration in due course.

In the interim, on foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In light of this, I wrote to the Minister for Health to request a temporary cessation of PMC assessments until such times as a revised basis for such assessments is established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.

While it is regrettable that PMC assessments are currently not taking place and I acknowledge that this will result in a growing waiting list, I anticipate that the work that is currently ongoing in relation to this matter will provide a proper basis for me to make a decision on the best pathway forward and to address the current legal uncertainty surrounding the Scheme. I can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (111)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

111. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will address a matter on the spend and stay scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29273/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Stay and Spend scheme provides tax relief by means of a tax credit at the rate of 20% on qualifying expenditure of up to €625 per person, or €1,250 for a jointly assessed couple, in respect of 2020 and 2021. The tax credit is worth a maximum of €125, or €250 for a jointly assessed couple.

The purpose of the Stay and Spend scheme is to incentivise taxpayers to support registered/accredited providers of accommodation and/or food during the off-season, thus providing support to a particularly vulnerable sector that will continue to be constrained by public health limitations.

With regard to the Deputy's question, for the purposes of this scheme, holiday accommodation premises must be registered or listed with Fáilte Ireland. Certain holiday accommodation providers are legally required to register with Fáilte Ireland. This includes hotels, guest houses, holiday hostels, youth hostels, caravan and camping parks and self-catering properties. There are other holiday accommodation providers who are not legally required to register with Fáilte Ireland but may choose to be voluntarily listed. The process for registration or listing with Fáilte Ireland requires the service provider to make a self-declaration that their business complies with all statutory requirements. For those holiday accommodation providers who apply to be listed, the voluntary application process is very simple and quick and only incurs a nominal fee of €1 for both 2020 and 2021.

Guidance can be found on Fáilte Ireland’s website. Information on the process for completing a registration or listing with Fáilte Ireland is available in Revenue’s Tax and Duty Manual Part 15-01-47, available at https://revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tdm/income-tax-capital-gains-tax-corporation-tax/part-15/15-01-47.pdf. If further assistance is required, Fáilte Ireland’s customer support team can be contacted at customersupport@failteireland.ie or via telephone on 1800 242 473.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (112, 113, 114, 115, 119)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

112. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 in view of the Supreme Court decision in which the court identified that persons deemed eligible for the primary medical certificate under section 92 of the Finance Act 1989 were nonetheless denied the certificate when assessed against Regulation 3 of the 1994 regulations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29293/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

113. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the steps taken to determine the case of a person (details supplied) in view of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court to quash the decision of the Disabled Drivers Board of Appeal, not to grant a primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29316/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

114. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the steps taken to determine the case of a person (details supplied) in view of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court to quash the decision of the Disabled Drivers Board of Appeal, not to grant a primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29317/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

115. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court (details supplied) he plans to provide a statement on the continued processing of applications for primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29318/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mairéad Farrell

Ceist:

119. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the reason his Department has advised that all medical assessments for primary medical certificates are to be paused of foot of a Supreme Court judgement when there are persons that are severely and permanently disabled and require these vital certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29388/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 to 115, inclusive, and 119 together.

The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain organisations. In order to qualify for relief an organisation must be entered in the register of charitable organisations under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2009, be engaged in the transport of disabled persons and whose purpose is to provide services to persons with disabilities.

In order to qualify for relief the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC) issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate (BMC) issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other criteria apply in relation to the vehicle and its use, including that the vehicle must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the following medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

A Supreme Court decision of 18 June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgement found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.

In the first instance, I acknowledge that the persons who successfully challenged a decision by the Medical Board of Appeal to refuse them a PMC are, on the basis of that Supreme Court decision, entitled to seek access to the Scheme. The Supreme Court decision raised complex issues, including the manner in which the persons concerned can access the Scheme, given that the Regulation which set out the medical eligibility criteria was not found to be invalid and given that the persons concerned were not assessed for a PMC on the single criterion of being permanently and severely disabled.

However, in the particular circumstances, I consider that both persons merit access to this Scheme and I instructed my officials to liaise with the Medical Board of Appeal to request that Board Medical Certificates are issued to them in light of the Supreme Court decision. In this regard I understand that the Board are amenable to this course of action and that Board Medical Certificates will be issued to the persons concerned shortly.

More generally, the Deputies will appreciate that the complex legal and policy issues raised by the Supreme Court decision will require careful consideration. In parallel to that consideration there is a need to examine how best the Scheme can target resources to those persons who most need them. My officials are currently examining the judgement, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, and will bring forward any policy and/or legislative proposals, as necessary, for my consideration in due course.

In the interim, on foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In such circumstances, it is not proposed to continue with PMC assessments until a revised basis for such assessments is established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.

My officials were in contact with the Medical Board of Appeal and with officials in the Department of Health and will continue to liaise with them, as required, going forward. I have also written to the Minister for Health to request that there are no further PMC assessments until a sound legal basis for such assessments is re-established.

While it is regrettable that PMC assessments are currently not taking place and I acknowledge that this will result in a growing waiting list, I anticipate that the work that is currently ongoing in relation to this matter will provide a proper basis for me to make a decision on the best pathway forward and to address the current legal uncertainty surrounding the Scheme. I can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (116)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

116. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by his Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29352/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

My department has entered into contracts with public relations agencies and public relations consultants during 2019 and to date in 2020 as outlined in the following table:

Year

Description

Amount

2019

Daniel J Edelman Ireland Limited.

Provision of specialist advice on the use of social media in an international context for the international launches of the Government of Ireland’s Ireland for Finance Strategy.

€24,395

2020 (to date)

Daniel J Edelman Ireland Limited.

Provision of specialist advice on the use of social media in an international context for the international launches of the Government of Ireland’s Ireland for Finance Strategy.

€4,879

2019

Switch Your Bank website hosting 2019 – Language Communication

€2,066.40

2020 (to date)

Switch Your Bank Website hosting 2020 – Language Communication

€2,066.40

*The cost of the Switch your Bank campaign is fully recoupable by AIB and Permanent TSB in the context of their restructuring plans. These costs relate to a Public awareness campaign as part of a range of competition measures agreed with the European Commission to raise awareness and promote customer switching of financial products. The Department of Finance facilitates this campaign as part of its remit to ensure that consumers are protected within the financial sector in Ireland and to ensure a healthy level of competition. The contract with Language Communications permitted them to appoint subcontractors for provision of services.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (117)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

117. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29365/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) ceased on 31 August 2020 and was replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) from 1 September 2020. When operational, the TWSS supported more than 66,000 employers in respect of approximately 664,000 employees at a cost of €2.9 billion to the Exchequer.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid 19) Act assigned responsibility for the care and management of the TWSS to Revenue and I am advised that in exercise of this responsibility it has, over the last few months, engaged in a phased programme of compliance checks on all participating employers (66,000). In most cases the compliance checks are a relatively straightforward enquiry requiring proof of eligibility for the scheme and evidence that the funds were properly passed on to qualifying employees. Having regard to this latter aspect, Revenue has been prioritising cases with larger numbers of employees and as of last week had initiated checks in respect of some 70% of the employments subsidised through the scheme.

Revenue has confirmed that the most recent tranche of compliance check letters issued on Friday 2 October, including the one referenced by the Deputy. As was the case with previous tranches, Revenue requested employers to confirm eligibility for the TWSS by reference to the decline in turnover in Quarter 2 of this year and to provide sample payslips confirming payment of the support to their qualifying employees. It is important to note that Revenue has not asked employers to provide any detailed tax information or computations in the letters, thereby facilitating a response within five days in most cases.

Where Revenue identifies intentional non-compliance with the conditions of the TWSS, or where employers fail to engage with the compliance checks, it will carry out a wider review of the tax compliance position of those businesses.

Revenue has already received a significant level of response from employers to the most recent letters and as was the case with the previous tranches, the information received indicates a high level of compliance by employers with the terms of the scheme. However, a relatively small number of cases have been identified as needing closer examination, and this will be completed as quickly as possible.

Tax Reliefs

Ceisteanna (118)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

118. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the existing research and development tax incentive scheme to make it more streamlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29384/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The research and development (R&D) tax credit allows a company to claim a 25% tax credit in respect of expenditure incurred on qualifying R&D activities. In making a claim for the R&D tax credit, companies must satisfy two tests: the activity must be a qualifying activity (a science test); and the amount of the claim must be based on R&D expenditure incurred (an accounting test). A claim for the R&D tax credit is made on a self-assessment basis.

Revenue have taken a number of steps in recent years to assist companies with making claims for the R&D tax credit, particularly small and micro companies. In February 2017 Revenue issued guidance aimed at reducing the administrative burden for small and micro companies in relation to claiming the R&D tax credit. The aim of this guidance is to give smaller companies greater clarity in how they can demonstrate to Revenue that their R&D tax credit claim satisfies the science test. Where a company spends up to €200,000 on activities which Enterprise Ireland or other such bodies have reviewed and confirmed as R&D, then in most cases Revenue will accept that those activities pass the science test. Revenue may still review the claim to ensure that the accounting test has been satisfied.

To further assist companies in making R&D credit claims, in 2019, Revenue published updated guidance on the operation of the R&D tax credit and the expected level of records to support a research and development tax credit claim. Revenue has also presented at conferences around the country, which are attended by companies, advisors and educators, to build awareness of the R&D tax credit.

As with all tax expenditures, officials in my Department frequently monitor the credit and regular engagement with stakeholders is facilitated. As the Deputy may be aware, the Programme for Government commits to continue to encourage greater take-up of the R&D Tax Credit by small domestic companies, by building on recent changes and examining issues with respect to the pre-approval procedures and reduced record keeping requirements. These issues will be examined by my Department, in conjunction with other Departments and stakeholders, in due course.