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Gnáthamharc

Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 238-260

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (238)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

238. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will designate the driver theory test as essential in order that it can open up for applicants. [29550/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In line with the further easing of restrictions, the gradual re-opening of in-person driver theory test centres will commence after the 7th of June. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) will reopen its network of test centres and will be permitted to conduct 25,000 driver theory tests per month.

Prior to COVID-19, the RSA provided 15,000 tests per month. In light of the significant backlog of customers, the RSA will gradually increase capacity in its test centres to 25,000 tests a month.

The test centres have extensive COVID-19 measures in place to protect both customers and staff and to ensure the safe delivery of the service. It is hoped that capacity will gradually increase to 50,000 tests per month over time, if public health guidance permits.

The RSA has been working to deliver an online theory test service, with a pilot online test already underway for trucks and buses. This pilot service has now been extended to include a limited number of car and motorbike tests.

The new offering will see 4,000 online theory tests available for all categories of vehicles per month. Tests are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis with the new online service becoming more widely available later in the year. Once the online service is established, all customers will be able to opt to do the test online.

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (239)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

239. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if an applicant who had a physical driver theory test is able to swap it for an online theory test; and if he will approve the RSA online plan. [29551/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The RSA has been working to deliver an online service, with a pilot online test underway for trucks and buses. This pilot service has now been extended to include a limited number of car and motorbike tests.

The new offering online will see 4,000 online theory tests available for all categories of vehicles per month. Tests are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis with the new online service becoming more widely available later in the year. Once the online service is fully established, all customers will be able to opt to do the test online. It is not possible to swap a physical theory test for an online test.

I can confirm that if someone books an online appointment and already has a booking for a physical appointment, the system automatically transfers the booking and they don’t end up with a double booking. In effect, capacity will be freed up in the physical centres if someone switches to online.

Road Safety

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 240.

Question No. 242 answered with Question No. 240.

Ceisteanna (240, 241, 242)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

240. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport the reforms that have been made or that will be made to the LPSV licensing system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29554/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

241. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to introduce legislation on reforming the existing LPSV licensing system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29555/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

242. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport his plans to consult with industry stakeholders regarding the reform of the existing LPSV licensing system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29556/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 242, inclusive, together.

My Department undertook an initial examination of this licensing regime to see if scope existed to streamline the process, which included consideration of the proposals to end the requirement for LPSV operators to hold an LPSV licence issued by An Garda Síochána and to replace the current LPSV test with an expanded Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT).

A key aim of the reform is to streamline the process for industry so as to eliminate the overlap and duplication that currently exist regarding the various elements of the current LPSV licensing regime.

The proposed reform has been included in the Department's 2021 business planning with a view to making further progress on these issues this year. The type of changes envisaged will of course involve consultation with the industry stakeholders, and require the adoption of new legislation by the Oireachtas, as well as the development of the required procedures and technical specifications for any new regime, and the establishment of any necessary transitional arrangements.

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 240.
Question No. 242 answered with Question No. 240.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (243)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

243. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the BusConnects and DART west proposals that are putting over 60 trees at risk along the Navan Road and in Martin Savage Park; if additional avenues will be taken to mitigate against cutting down the trees; if there are plans by the NTA to replace any trees lost in the proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29594/21]

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 in the Greater Dublin Area, including BusConnects and DART+.

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

Protected Disclosures

Question No. 245 answered with Question No. 215.

Ceisteanna (244)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

244. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport the number of protected disclosures made to his Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2021. [29644/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The number of allegations received by my Department which invoked the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021 are set out in the table below. The table indicates the total number of allegations received, the number of these which were found, following assessment, to be not relevant or not a protected disclosure and the number subject to investigation.

Year

Number of allegations received

Number assessed as not being Protected Disclosure

Number subject to Investigation

July 2014 to 2015

3

1

2

2016

3

2

1

2017

2

1

1

2018

8

3

5

2019

5

3

2

2020

4

1

3

2021

0

0

0

Question No. 245 answered with Question No. 215.

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (246)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

246. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Transport if advice will be provided in relation to the case of a person (details supplied). [29713/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is the body responsible for the operation of the Driver Test. The protocol for scheduling appointments is an operational matter for the RSA and I do not have any role in this process.

This question is being referred 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.

Driver Licences

Ceisteanna (247)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

247. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the health restrictions, including vision requirements for persons applying for a bus or HGV driver licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29751/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

An applicant for a Group 2 (bus and/or truck) driving licence must meet the minimum physical and mental fitness and eyesight standards specified in Schedules 6 and 7 of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 (SI 537 of 2006), as amended.

Detailed information on the standards can be found in the latest version of the Sláinte agus Tiomáint Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines, available on the National Office of Traffic Medicine website: www.rcpi.ie/traffic-medicine. The Guidelines were updated in April 2021.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (248)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

248. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Transport when the reclassification of L5433 to a regional road and the reclassification of R444 to a minor road will commence. [29759/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As regards the classification of the L5433 and the R444, the classification of roads as either a national road or a regional road is a Ministerial responsibility under section 10 of the Roads Act, 1993, as amended. A public road, other than one classified as a national road or a regional road, is a local road.

Roads classified as regional or local roads fall under the responsibility of local authorities. The construction, repair and maintenance of these roads is funded by local authorities’ own resources supplemented by State grants.

Requests to classify a road as a national road or regional road are considered, in consultation with TII as appropriate. Criteria for consideration are numerous and include items such as function of road including access to towns and Cities, major ports and airports, geographical regions, population centres and tourist regions. It also includes considerations of continuity of classification throughout the length of road, whether roads are feeder connections or links to the national road network, cross section, alignment and structural integrity as well as amount of heavy commercial vehicles. Funding source for road improvement is not a consideration of classification of road type.

The Department carries out periodic reviews of classifications and these proposals, in relation to the L5433 and the R444, will be considered as part of the next such review. This is likely to take place in 2022.

Road Projects

Ceisteanna (249)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

249. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport if funding is being made available for a project (details supplied) that is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29837/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities' own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

An allocation in excess of €15 million is being made available in 2021 to local authorities funded under my Department’s regional and local road maintenance and renewal grant programmes for Climate Adaptation and Resilience schemes. In March this year local authorities were invited to submit applications for Climate Adaptation and Resilience Works, for consideration for funding in 2021.

An application has been received from Mayo County Council, which includes a scheme for seawall renovation works on the R313 in Belmullet. It is expected that these grant allocations will be announced later this week.

Rail Network

Ceisteanna (250)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

250. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Transport if he will make the preliminary business case for MetroLink and the outcomes of the feasibility studies in relation to MetroLink and the Review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area publicly available; if these studies were extended to include the feasibility of the MetroLink to come out as far as Firhouse and Ballycullen and connect on to Tallaght; the position regarding extending the MetroLink out to the Dublin south-west area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29848/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I think it important to set out what are two different processes currently underway both of which relate to the potential future development of metro in Dublin.

Firstly, we have the project known as MetroLink. This is a project set out in the existing, statutory, Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2036 and one which has been subject to extensive, non-statutory public consultation over the last 3 years. This project has now reached an important milestone as its Preliminary Business Case has been submitted to my Department for review as is required under the Public Spending Code. For projects of this scale, the Public Spending Code stipulates that Government approval is required to allow the project submit its Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála. The Preliminary Business Case has been developed on the basis of the existing project as has been subject to public consultation in recent years.

Secondly, we have the statutory review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area. The Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 stipulates that the Strategy must be reviewed every six years and this review provides an opportunity to re-examine and re-consider proposals for inclusion in the revised Strategy. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has stated that as part of its review it is considering whether additional metro routes should be included in any revised Strategy. It has further stated that as part of the public consultation process all background studies conducted to assist with this consideration will be published and I understand this public consultation phase will commence in the coming months.

I think it important to also note that inclusion in any revised Strategy is the first step in what is a very detailed process to enable projects move from the strategic support enabled by inclusion in a Transport Strategy to being a project with a Preliminary Business Case seeking approval to enter the statutory planning process.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (251)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

251. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Finance if a review of the local property tax case of a person (details supplied) can be carried out. [29547/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the person in question recently informed Revenue that the 2013 self-assessed valuation on his property was over-stated and requested that it be reduced from Local Property Tax (LPT) Band 3 to Band 1.

The person previously paid LPT liability for 2013 (in 2013) but did not make payments in respect of subsequent years until 2019, following notifications from Revenue. The payment received in 2019 was allocated to his older LPT liabilities in accordance with normal Revenue practice for historical tax arrears. The subsequent reduction in the person’s LPT valuation in 2021 meant that both 2013 and 2015 were consequently overpaid. However, these amounts are not repayable, in accordance with section 26(2)(b) of the Finance (Local) Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended), because the valuation was changed more than four-years after the end of the relevant tax years.

Revenue is engaging directly with the person in the context of his overall LPT liability, including in respect of interest charges and his entitlement to a deferral of LPT.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (252)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

252. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the employment wage subsidy scheme which is due to end on 30 June 2021 given that many businesses such as bars which have been closed for extensive periods will have just reopened when the scheme ends; his plans to provide additional supports to businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29810/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Section 28B of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides for the operation of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which is an economy-wide enterprise support for eligible businesses in respect of eligible employees. It provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the numbers of paid and eligible employees on the employer’s payroll and charges a reduced rate of employer PRSI of 0.5% on wages paid which are eligible for the subsidy payment.

The objective of the EWSS is to support employment and maintain the link between the employer and employee insofar as is possible. The EWSS has been a key component of the Government’s response to the continued Covid-19 crisis to support viable firms and encourage employment in the midst of these very challenging times. To date, payments of over €3.29 billion and PRSI credit of over €540 million have been granted to 49,500 employers in respect of some 570,000 workers.

Other members of the Government and I have been clear that there will be no cliff-edge to the EWSS and, as the Deputy will be aware, the scheme is currently scheduled to run until the end of this month. The COVID Restrictions Support Scheme has been similarly extended.

On many occasions over recent months, I have indicated to the House in responses to questions from Deputies that consideration was being given to the fact that continued support could be necessary out to the end of 2021 to help maintain viable businesses and employment and to provide businesses with certainty to the maximum extent possible.

Subject to the deliberations of Government, the Deputy may expect to hear further details today in this regard in relation to the EWSS.

I can also assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to assess matters as we move forward with the reopening of the economy and I will continue to work with Ministerial colleagues to ensure that appropriate supports are in place to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic as far as possible.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (253)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

253. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider extending the help-to-buy scheme for all first-time buyers to include existing properties rather than exclusively for new builds. [29812/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Help to Buy (HTB) scheme is designed to stimulate the supply of new houses in the housing market and to assist first time buyers in accumulating a deposit for a new home. In order to help further meet these goals, I announced an enhancement to the existing scheme with effect from 23 July 2020 for the remainder of that year as part of the July Stimulus Package. The legislation to give effect to this is set out in the Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No.2) Act 2020. Finance Act 2020 further extended the period of application of the enhanced levels of support until 31 December 2021.

In relation to second-hand properties generally, an increase in the supply of new housing remains a priority aim of Government policy. As mentioned above, the HTB scheme is specifically designed to encourage an increase in demand for affordable new build homes in order to encourage the construction of an additional supply of such properties. A move to include second-hand properties within the scope of the relief would not improve the effectiveness of the relief; on the contrary, it could serve to dilute the incentive effect of the measure in terms of encouraging additional supply. I have no plans to extend HTB to second-hand properties.

Financial Services

Ceisteanna (254)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

254. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken to address ongoing issues regarding unlicensed mortgage providers; the protections that are in place for customers who have been affected by the unlicensed mortgage providers facilitating mortgages here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29863/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Deputy may wish to note that the Central Bank’s website sets out information on the types of entities which require an authorisation to provide credit, including mortgages, such as credit institutions, credit unions and retail credit firms. It also sets out information on entities which require authorisation to advise on and intermediate between mortgage credit providers and consumers i.e. mortgage credit intermediaries. The Central Bank’s website also includes registers of all firms regulated by the Central Bank.

Consumers that engage with an unauthorised firm may lose the protections of regulation and the consumer protection framework. For example:

- the Consumer Protection Code (CPC) or Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) would not apply;

- consumers may lose access to protections such as the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, the Investor Compensation Fund, the Insurance Compensation Fund and the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO).

In addition, the directors and senior management of unregulated firms are not subject to the Fitness and Probity Regime and unregulated firms are not subject to prudential requirements such as regulatory capital requirements or safeguarding of client funds.

The Central Bank encourages consumers to take the SAFE test www.centralbank.ie/consumer-hub/explainers/how-can-i-avoid-a-financial-services-scam before dealing with financial services firms.

The Central Bank advises that it has a dedicated unit, the 'Unauthorised Providers Unit', which investigates alleged instances of unauthorised activity carried out by individuals or entities that are not authorised or regulated by the Central Bank. Members of the public can report alleged instances of unauthorised activity through the Central Bank’s website or directly by telephone. Details for making reports are contained at www.centralbank.ie/regulation/how-we-regulate/authorisation/unauthorised-firms. All instances of alleged unauthorised activity are investigated in full by the Central Bank. However, the Central Bank has also advised that it is bound by strict statutory obligations of confidentiality and therefore is precluded from commenting on the specific investigations it undertakes.

Real Estate Investment Trusts

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 255.

Ceisteanna (255, 256)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

255. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 311 and 312 of 18 May 2021, the amount of IREF dividend withholding tax deducted for 2017, 2018 and 2019 in gross terms and in net terms after refunds in instances in which a person is entitled to receive a distribution without the deduction of DWT on account of a double taxation agreement. [29147/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

256. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 311 and 312 of 18 May 2021, the amount of IREF dividend withholding tax deducted for 2019 that was and was not attributable, respectively, to provisions under Finance Act 2017 that ended the exclusion from the IREF DWT of the distribution of capital gains on the disposal of assets which had been held for more than five years, which became effective from 1 January 2019. [29148/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.

The Irish Real Estate Fund (IREF) legislation was introduced by Finance Act 2016 to address concerns raised regarding the use of collective investment vehicles by non-residents to invest in Irish property. An IREF is an investment fund, or a sub-fund, which derives 25% or more of its market value from assets acquiring their value directly or indirectly from real estate in the State.

As an investment undertaking, the profits of the IREF are not taxed within the fund, but instead are subject to tax in the hands of the investors. IREFs are subject to a 20% withholding tax on distributions to non-resident investors. Irish resident individuals/corporates are subject to investment undertakings tax. Certain categories of investors such as pension funds, life assurance companies and other collective investment undertakings are generally exempt from having IREF withholding tax applied provided the appropriate declarations are in place.

The legislation governing the taxation of IREFs provides that an investor resident in a country with which Ireland has a double taxation agreement (DTA) may reclaim any excess withholding tax incurred above the rate specified in the relevant DTA where the investor owns less than 10% of the units in an IREF. The table below sets out details of the number and value of reclaims processed by Revenue up to the period ended 30 April 2021. The reclaims processed total €3,319,159. The bulk of the repayments relate to IREF WHT deducted in the tax period ended 31 December 2019.

Date of repayment

Number of reclaims

Amount of reclaims €

2021

<10

2,521,414

2020

34

773,538

2019

<10

24,207

The gross amount of IREF WHT arising and paid for the periods 2017, 2018 and 2019 were previously provided to the Deputy and are set out in the following table.

2017 €

2018 €

2019 €

IREF Withholding Tax paid

8,321,359

28,229,097

65,759,048

Income tax charge paid*

n/a

n/a

6,211,720

*The Finance Act 2019 contained a number of anti-avoidance measures for IREFs. IREFs are regarded as having income subject to income tax where they have excessive debt or expenses that are not wholly or exclusively for the purpose of their business. For the three-month period to 31 December 2019, €6.2 million income tax was paid by IREFs.

In respect of question 29148/21, Section 19 of Finance Act 2017 removed the exemption referred to by the Deputy in respect of disposals occurring on or after 1 January 2019. It is not possible to estimate the amount of IREF withholding tax paid in 2019 directly attributable to the removal of this exemption, as this would have required taxpayers to declare information no longer relevant in filing their tax returns - i.e. to advise if a gain would have been excluded if it had arisen in a prior year. I can however advise that in 2019, no IREF indicated on the returns filed that it had availed of the exclusion of profits in respect of a profit distribution arising from a property sale.

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 255.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (257)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

257. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the stamp duty that will apply to a development (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29155/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that it is difficult to comment definitively on the stamp duty liability of individual transactions. The stamp duty liability that might arise in respect of a particular development would have regard to the particular facts and circumstances of each transaction. In addition, any potential stamp duty liability that might arise in the circumstances of the case in question would not appear to be directly relevant to the requester, so the issue of taxpayer confidentiality also arises for Revenue.

In relation to the recent Financial Resolution passed by the Dáil on May 19 last, I can confirm that a new higher rate of 10% stamp duty applies under section 31E of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 in situations where 10 or more residential units, excluding apartments (as defined), but including duplex units and terraced town houses, are acquired in any 12-month period. For the purposes of section 31E, an apartment is defined as a residential unit in a multi-storey residential property that comprises, or will comprise, not less than 3 apartments with grouped or common access. It will be a question of fact in each case whether the residential units concerned come within this definition.

Stamp duty is payable by the purchaser or by a lessee in a long lease with a term of at least 35 years. While it is not clear who might be acquiring the residential units in question following their refurbishment, it should be noted that local authorities and certain approved housing bodies purchasing or leasing residential units are exempt from stamp duty so the threshold of 10 residential units would not be relevant to them.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (258)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

258. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance the nature of the data breaches experienced by his Department since 2018. [29308/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

For operational security reasons, my Department is not in a position to provide any details of its cyber security systems or those of the bodies under its aegis, as it would be inappropriate to disclose information that may in any way assist those with malicious intent.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (259, 261)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

259. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the failure to include private mortgage to rent providers in the exemption from an increase in stamp duty on bulk purchases in the recently passed financial resolution places the conclusion of up to 200 mortgage to rent transactions with home for life at risk of collapse; if so, the action he plans to take to avert this risk; and the timeline within which he plans to act. [29359/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

261. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the impact of the recently announced changes to stamp duty in respect of the bulk buying by investment funds of houses on organisations active in the mortgage to rent sector (details supplied) and that are in the process of purchasing homes under the mortgage to rent scheme in order to lease back to distressed homeowners; if he has been in contact with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage with regard to identifying a way in which such organisations may be exempted from the new stamp duty regime under certain circumstances and informed by the way in which approved housing bodies have been exempted under the new system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29479/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 261 together.

On May 19th this year, the Dáil approved, by way of a Financial Resolution, a new higher stamp duty rate of 10% that will apply to the multiple purchase of houses.

I introduced this measure in response to the multiple purchase of residential units by certain institutional investors in the Irish property market. I share the widespread concerns that the activity of these institutional investors risks distorting the market for houses in the State and I recognise the difficulties that this has the potential to cause for first time buyers and others who wish to buy a family home.

I indicated at that time that as some multiple purchases of property are undertaken by bodies specifically for the purpose of providing social or affordable housing, the higher stamp duty rate will not apply in such instances e.g. Local Authorities, Approved Housing Bodies, and the Housing Agency. I also pointed out that other social or affordable housing arrangements would be considered as part of the legislation which will be brought before the Houses in the next few weeks to permanently underpin this Financial Resolution.

In relation to the Deputies specific question about whether private sector participants in the Mortgage to Rent (MTR) scheme will be exempted from the new higher stamp duty rate, I have been advised by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage that he wishes such an exemption to be provided for as part of the legislation required to put the stamp duty Financial Resolution on a permanent statutory footing.

Finally, my officials have been in contact with a major private sector participant and it is understood that the addressing of this matter through legislation over the next number of weeks should ensure that current mortgage to rent transactions are concluded satisfactorily.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (260)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

260. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of the bike-to-work scheme in each year since it was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29452/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will be aware, section 118(5G) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA 1997) provides for the Cycle to Work scheme. This scheme provides an exemption from benefit-in-kind (BIK) where an employer purchases a bicycle and associated safety equipment for an employee and was introduced in 2009.

The scheme operates on a self-administration basis. Relief is automatically available provided the employer is satisfied that the conditions of their particular scheme meet the requirements of the legislation. There is no notification procedure for employers involved. This approach was taken with the deliberate intention of keeping the scheme simple and reducing administration on the part of employers.

Tax expenditure reports prepared by my Department have estimated the cost in a full year at €4 million but have been clear that this figure was an estimate as separate returns are not required.

An estimated additional tax expenditure of €0.5m in 2020 and €1.5m in 2021 is expected to arise on foot of the changes made to the scheme by Section 9 of the Financial Provision (Covid-19)(No.2) Act 2020. This increased the allowable expenditure from €1,000 to €1,500 in respect of e-bikes and €1,250 in respect of bicycles and allowed the purchase of a new bicycle every 4 years instead of 5.

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