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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 251-275
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Public Services Card
 Header Item Departmental Bodies
 Header Item VAT Exemptions
 Header Item National Pensions Reserve Fund Administration
 Header Item Small and Medium Enterprises Supports
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Property Taxation Administration
 Header Item Property Taxation Collection
 Header Item Fuel Laundering
 Header Item Excise Duties
 Header Item Fuel Prices
 Header Item Credit Unions
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Universal Social Charge Payments
 Header Item VAT Exemptions
 Header Item Revenue Commissioners Resources
 Header Item Bank Restructuring
 Header Item Financial Services Ombudsman
 Header Item Financial Services Ombudsman
 Header Item Tax Code

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 856 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 112 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 251-275

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

 251. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the basis on which her Department may request private bank statements from persons on jobseeker's allowance; the data protection measures that are in place to protect such sensitive information; if she will indicate what happens to the information after it has been used for claim assessment purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42236/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Jobseekers allowance is a means-tested payment and is payable subject to a number of conditions. The rules in regard to means testing are contained in Part 2 of Schedule 3 of the SW Con Act 2005 as amended and in S.I. 142 of 2007, part 3, chapter 6, section 141 (1) onwards.

In order to decide on a jobseekers means it may be necessary for a deciding officer to seek verification details of savings and/or investments held in a financial institution and this may require the jobseeker having to supply a copy of relevant bank or other statements. Documentation provided by jobseekers in support of their claim is usually returned but, in some instances, copies of relevant documents/statements may be the held on file in the Intreo Centre. The Department takes its responsibilities in relation to data protection and protecting the data of its clients very seriously. Every effort is made to ensure that personal customer data is held securely and used solely for business purposes and that it is not compromised in any way.

In addition, it should be noted that the Department has data protection and information security policies, standards, procedures and guidelines in place governing the use of its computer systems and customer data. These are communicated on an ongoing basis to the staff of the Department and high standards are expected in relation to the handling and processing of personal client information.

Question No. 252 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 253. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on a carer's allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42247/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 September 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral appeal hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Public Services Card

 254. Deputy Noel Harrington Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the criteria used to get the public service card for clients, vis-à-vis attending the office in person, and postal registrations, where the ID photograph is not taken at the local office of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [42255/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of Social Protection has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, a rules based standard for establishing and authenticating an individual’s identity for the purposes of access to public services. This programme of work, which is known as the Standard Authentication Framework Environment or SAFE for short, also provided for the introduction of a Public Services Card (PSC) to enable individuals to gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort, while at the same time preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible.

The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector such as the free travel pass and the social services card of the Department and to make it easy for providers of public services to verify the identity of customers. The PSC contains advanced security features including the holder’s photograph thus preventing usage by an ineligible person.

A PSC is currently issued following either a “face-to-face” registration process, or a ‘postal’ registration process. The “face-to-face” registration process involves the capture, at one of the Department’s offices, of a person’s photograph and signature, the verification of identity and current address as well as the capture of additional data such as answers to security questions to be used in ensuring the future integrity of customers’ data.

Selected pensioners over 66, deemed low-risk from an identity perspective, have been invited to avail of one of two ‘postal’ registration process. One of these involves utilisation, with consent, of information already provided to other Government agencies, for example, a photograph supplied in connection with an application for a passport. The other applies to those who regularly collect their payments at a Post Office and requires the person to provide two passport-standard photographs. The ‘postal’ registration processes also involve the capture of additional data such as answers to security questions.

The vast majority of persons who have received PSCs have authenticated their identity by attending at a face-to-face registration.

Departmental Bodies

 255. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of quangos set up since 2011 in her Department; the number of members of same; the cost and expense incurred to date including details of the briefs that they cover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42518/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Authority, the Pensions Ombudsman and the Social Welfare Tribunal.

  No new statutory or other bodies have been established under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection since 2011.   The Pensions Board was renamed the Pensions Authority on 7 March 2014.

VAT Exemptions

 256. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan in view of the fact that water charges will not be subject to VAT, in line with EU approval, if the Irish Water call out charges will be subject to VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41043/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that paragraph 14(2) of Schedule 1 of the Value-Added Tax Act 2010 exempts from VAT the supply of water by local authorities and Irish Water.  I assume the call out charges to which the Deputy refers includes charges for connection and reconnection, pressure testing, water quality testing and meter services.  Charges for these ancillary water services by local authorities and Irish Water are also exempt from VAT.

National Pensions Reserve Fund Administration

 257. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total amount of lending undertaken by the NPRF SME Credit Fund to date; the number of projects involved; the total number of jobs supported; the percentage of applications approved; the way in which the operation of the fund compares to the initial targets set for it; the future plans for the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [41411/14]

 258. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total amount of investment undertaken by the NPRF SME Equity Fund to date; the number of projects involved; the total number of jobs supported; the percentage of applications approved; the way in which the operation of the fund compares to the initial targets set for it; the future plans for the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [41412/14]

 259. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total amount of investment undertaken by the NPRF Turnaround Fund to date; the number of projects involved; the total number of jobs supported; the percentage of applications approved; the way in which the operation of the fund compares to the initial targets set for it; the future plans for the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [41413/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 to 259, inclusive, together.

 SME Equity Fund - Carlyle Cardinal Ireland

  (€275 million fund focused lower mid-market private equity investing. NPRF Commitment €125 million)

  Since the inception of the fund, Carlyle Cardinal has developed strong networks across Ireland and has generated a strong pipeline of attractive opportunities for the fund. The Carlyle Cardinal Ireland fund completed its final closing in June 2014 at €292 million, just short of its €300 million target. In January 2014, Carlyle Cardinal announced that it had completed its first transaction with a significant investment in Lily O'Brien's, the Irish manufacturer of premium chocolates, and it has recently closed its second investment in GSLS, a cash-in-transit company.

  SME Credit Fund - Bluebay

  (€450 million credit fund focused on lending to large SME and Mid Cap companies. NPRF Commitment €200 million)

  The SME Credit Fund considers credit provision through acquiring and refinancing loans close to maturity where existing lenders are not willing to provide new lines of credit. Lending by the fund is at competitive market rates with loan sizes ranging from €5 million to €45 million with a projected average size of €15 million. To date six loans have been completed totalling approximately €120 million. The pipeline remains strong as BlueBay considers opportunities across a number of industry sectors and currently is actively working through diligence and documentation on a further 3 transactions.

  SME Turnaround Fund - Better Capital Ireland  ("BCI")

  (€100 million fund focused on deep turnaround investing in troubled companies. NPRF Commitment €50 million)

  The NTMA and Better Capital have agreed not to extend the investment period of this fund which expires at the end of December 2014; however, the two parties will continue to collaborate in respect of turnaround investment opportunities in Ireland post-December 2014. The fund had been set up with a lifespan of two years, with the intention of investing in distressed firms but positive changes in the economy meant it has not completed any investments.

  In response to some of specific information sought in this Parliamentary Question the NTMA have advised that they are developing their capabilities for collating and analyzing data to measure and report on economic impact on an ex-post basis (i.e. after the investment has been made). This will require a completely new data set to be sought and reported on by funds and the underlying companies in which funds have invested and by companies or project sponsors in which the Fund has invested directly. While it is standard practice that companies report financial information to their investors, the new ISIF mandate will also require metrics that can be used to help assess economic impact to be reported. Once approved by the incoming NTMA Board, a preliminary assessment of the economic impact of the investments made to date in Ireland will be published.

  Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI)

  As you are no doubt aware the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) has been established by the Government as another initiative to ensure that SMEs in Ireland are provided with sufficient finance for growth.  Loan agreements with the international funders, KfW and the European Investment Bank, to the value of €550m have been signed to fund the SBCI during its initial period of operations.  The SBCI is funded to the value of €800m of which €150m is from KfW, €400m from the European Investment Bank and €250m from the National Pension Reserve Fund. A key benefit of the SBCI will be its ability to facilitate loans with initial capital repayment breaks or the offering of loans with longer durations than are typically available currently.  In such cases, SMEs would have greater capacity to make investments on the basis of improved cash flow matching, which makes growth more likely.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

 260. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of businesses that have made use of the small and medium enterprise online tool designed to assist the SME sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41436/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Government recognises that small businesses play a central role in the sustainable recovery of the Irish economy. With over €2bn of government supports available to small business in Ireland from over twenty Departments and Agencies, it is vital that SMEs can quickly access information on this range of supports available to them.

  In order to improve the levels of awareness of government business supports available, in Budget 2014 the Government announced an information campaign - a cross-governmental initiative now called the Supporting SMEs campaign. Under the Supporting SMEs campaign, the Supporting SMEs Online Tool was launched in May 2014. On answering 8 simple questions, the small business will receive a list of available government supports. A significant advantage of the Online Tool is its ease of use and the co-ordinated results which cover a broad range of government departments and agencies, with updates and new supports added regularly.

  In the first four months since its launch, the Supporting SMEs Online Tool had 17,000 unique visitors, an average of 135 a day and over 4,300 a month. The Supporting SMEs campaign team continues to work to increase awareness of the Online Tool.

  To engage with SMEs and raise awareness of the Supporting SMEs Online Tool, members of the Supporting SMEs campaign team attend appropriate regional events throughout the year, including the National Ploughing Championships, National Womens' Enterprise Day, and the ISME National Conference.  Alongside this, an online advertising campaign to direct traffic to the Online Tool commenced in late September, and saw an increase in users of the Online Tool. The next phase of the campaign will involve the dissemination of information material to all key stakeholders to increase their awareness of the Supporting SMEs Online Tool.

  The Supporting SMEs campaign team meets on a monthly basis to evaluate the impact of the campaign to date and to plan the most appropriate strategy to raise awareness of government supports available to SMEs, including their awareness of and engagement with the Supporting SMEs Online Tool.

The Supporting SMEs Online Tool is available at
www.localenterprise.ie/smeonlinetool   

Tax Credits

 261. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his plans to change the single person child carer tax credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41721/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy is aware, the One-Parent Family Tax Credit was replaced with the Single Person Child Carer Credit from 1 January 2014.   The new credit is more targeted in that it is, in the first instance, only available to the primary carer of the child.

  As part of the normal budgetary preparations all tax reliefs, credits and incentives are reviewed in order to ensure that they are properly targeted and if necessary re-focused in order that they can achieve the socio-economic objectives that are set for them.

  I am satisfied that the tax credit in its current form is working as intended and I have no plans to change it at this time.

Property Taxation Administration

 262. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the reason an additional transaction fee of 1.49% is allowed to be charged on credit card payments of local property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41726/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by Revenue that the charge to which the Deputy refers has been reduced to 1.1% with effect from 1 October 2014.

The charge, which is applicable to all credit card tax payments to Revenue including Local Property Tax (LPT) and arrears of Household Charge (HHC), is passed to the taxpayer as provided for by Section 960EA (inserted by Section 79 of the Finance Act 2011 (No. 6 of 2011) of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. The charge is set at a level that covers the fees payable to the two parties that are necessary to provide the service, i.e. the merchant acquirer and the technical connection support.

The rate of charge is calculated under the terms of a Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) tender process for Public Sector payments and is open to being varied according to the value/volume of transactions being processed by the service providers.

Revenue has advised me that the rate reduction from 1.49% to 1.1% is possible due to the increased value/volume of credit card transactions from people who are opting to meet their tax liabilities by that payment method.

Finally, Revenue has also advised me that there is no charge passed to taxpayers who opt to meet their tax liabilities by debit card.

Property Taxation Collection

 263. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on the timing of property tax bill (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41906/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In regard to the administration of Local Property Tax (LPT), the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended) sets out the statutory due dates for payment.

I am advised that, mindful of the difficulties referred to by the Deputy, Revenue has introduced eight different payment options to assist property owners in meeting their liabilities in a manner and at a time that best suits individual circumstances.  For example, they can pay before Christmas, and many are choosing to do so, by phased payments throughout 2015 or by single debit authority from a bank account whereby the deduction will not be taken until 21 March 2015.

In regard to the 2015 liabilities, Revenue is currently writing to all property owners who paid their 2014 LPT liability as a single sum or by way of regular cash payments through the PSP's to advise them of their new liability (taking account of any Local Authority rate adjustments) and asking them to confirm their preferred payment method. Revenue is not contacting property owners who opted for either direct debit or Deduction at Source in respect of 2014 as these methods will automatically 'roll over' into 2015 (also taking account of any Local Authority rate reductions).

It is very important that any property owners who paid in full with a single payment in 2014 and wish to switch to a phased arrangement for 2015 inform Revenue no later than 25 November 2014 to allow sufficient time for the request to be put in place for the first pay period of the new-year.

Property owners who opt to pay in full should do so by 7 January 2015. 7 January is also the latest date for notifying Revenue in regard to the SDA option even though the deduction will not be taken until 21 March.

In conclusion the LPT system gives property owners the maximum facility to either pay in full or to  phase the payments over the course of the year.

Fuel Laundering

 264. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the actions he has taken to combat the practice of petrol stretching; his plans to increase the penalties for same, including criminal convictions for operators of service stations engaging in this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42164/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for tackling fuel fraud, that they are very aware of the risks posed to consumers' vehicles, legitimate businesses and the Exchequer by all forms of such fraud.

Revenue has, over the recent past, received reports from a variety of locations around the country of problems relating to petrol quality, and suggestions that these problems are attributable to petrol stretching. Petrol stretching involves the illegal addition of a low tax commodity to petrol to defraud motorists and the State.

Revenue investigates all complaints of this kind and fuel samples are taken from filling stations and referred to the State Laboratory for analysis where the investigating officers have reason to suspect excise fraud. To date 48 premises nationwide have been tested with samples referred to the State Laboratory.

Conclusive results have been received in one case which confirms contamination through the presence of kerosene and Revenue are considering the possibility of prosecution in this case. Final results are awaited in respect of the other samples referred for analysis. It is understood the State Laboratory is reviewing its existing procedures with a view to expediting testing which, I am informed is quite complex.

The Deputy can be assured that, if Revenue's investigations and the analysis of fuel samples indicate the presence of illegal stretching agents in petrol, Revenue will take action and pursue prosecutions against offenders where possible.

Petrol stretching is an offence under section 102 (1A) of the Finance Act 1999. It carries a penalty on summary conviction of a fine of €5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both a fine and imprisonment. Where conviction occurs on indictment, a fine of up to €126,970, or a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both a fine or imprisonment, may be imposed. The fine that may be imposed where a conviction occurs on indictment was increased substantially by the Finance Act 2010. I have no immediate plans to increase penalties, but I will keep the matter under review. 

I understand also that Revenue has been in contact with the motor and fuel trades about the reported problems. Cooperation with the fuel trade has been an important element in the successful work undertaken in recent years to combat fuel fraud, and can play a key role in addressing any further issues that come to light. It is essential, in particular, that petrol distributors report on any reduction in the pattern of legitimate supplies of fuel to the retail trade which may indicate that specific traders are shifting some of their sourcing to illegal fuel.

Motorists themselves should take care about where they source their petrol, and should report any suspicions to Revenue. Revenue has recently launched a dedicated section of its website specifically dealing with the shadow economy and this includes a reporting facility for anyone who has information about shadow economy practices including the adulteration of fuel.

An extensive range of new measure has been introduced over recent years to tackle fuel fraud, including enhanced supply chain controls and the acquisition of a more effective fuel marker. Key measures include the following:

- The licensing regime for auto fuel traders was strengthened with effect from September 2011 to limit the ability of the fuel criminals to get laundered fuel onto the market;

- A new licensing regime was introduced for marked fuel traders in October 2012, which is designed to limit the ability of criminals to source marked fuel for laundering;

- New requirements in relation to fuel traders' records of stock movements and fuel deliveries were introduced to ensure data are available to assist in supply chain analysis;

- New supply chain controls were introduced from January 2013 following significant investment in new IT systems. These controls require all licensed fuel traders, whether dealing in road fuel or marked fuel, to make monthly electronic returns to Revenue of their fuel transactions. Revenue is using this data to identify suspicious or anomalous transactions and patterns of distribution that will support follow-up enforcement action where necessary, and

- An intensified targeting, in co-operation with other law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, of enforcement action against suspected fuel laundering operations.

In addition to the measures implemented to date, Revenue has, in partnership with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the UK identified a more effective fuel marker and it is expected that a new marker will be introduced in both jurisdictions early in 2015 following consultation with the oil industry and other stakeholders.

To support further the integrity of the distribution system and minimise the risk of fraud, I introduced a provision in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 that will make a supplier who is reckless in supplying rebated fuel for a use connected with excise fraud liable for the duty at the standard rate of tax. This new provision will strengthen Revenue's hand in dealing with those traders supplying rebated fuel recklessly to dubious customers and will provide a further disincentive to such activity. Revenue has published guidelines for mineral oil traders which will assist them in identifying and avoiding such transactions.

I am committed to providing new measures to further assist Revenue in its work against fuel fraud should they be required.

Excise Duties

 265. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding duty paid within the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42271/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in accordance with Council Directive 2008/118/EC and section 104(2) of the Finance Act 2001, tobacco products tax is not chargeable on tobacco products that are bought tax-paid by a private individual in another Member State of the European Union for personal consumption by that person in this State. The tobacco products must be for the individual's own personal use and not for commercial purposes and they must be transported personally into the State by that individual.  Once these requirements are satisfied, quantitative limits generally do not apply.

  The only exception to this is where EU law permits the imposition of quantitative restrictions on tobacco products purchased tax-paid in a Member State that has not applied the minimum tobacco tax rate required under EU law.  In accordance with EU Directive 2008/118/EU, as amended by EU Directive 2010/12/EU, I introduced a quantitative restriction, with effect from 1 January 2014, on the number of cigarettes that may be brought into the State for personal use by individuals travelling from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.  The Excise Duty on Cigarettes (Quantitative Restrictions) Order 2013  provides that the number of tax-paid cigarettes that may be brought into Ireland for personal use by individuals travelling from those Member States, without payment of further excise duty in Ireland, is restricted to 300 (
http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2013/en/si/0553.html).  Cigarettes in excess of that quantity must be declared by them to a Revenue officer and the appropriate excise duty must be paid. This restriction will remain in place until 31 December 2017, or until such time as the particular Member State has achieved the required EU minimum tax levels, whichever is the earlier.

  Your correspondent may, however, may be referring to a provision in Article 32 of the Directive that Member States may apply indicative limits of 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars and 1kg of smoking tobacco as evidence of amounts consistent with personal use.  Other considerations may also be applied in determining if products are being brought in for personal use and these are set out in Part 4 of the Control of Excisable Products Regulations 2010 (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2010/en/si/0146.html).

  For completeness, quantitative restrictions apply to tobacco products brought into the State from outside the EU, or from territories where EU rules on VAT and excise duties do not apply, such as the Canary Islands.  Where passengers arriving in Ireland have travelled from these areas, they may bring a maximum of 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250 grammes of tobacco into the State tax free.

Fuel Prices

 266. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will provide in tabular form an analysis of the price of oil and the price of petrol, excluding excise duties in both cases, compared to the price of oil and petrol on the international market over the past ten years. [40909/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information the Deputy has requested is not readily available.

  However, the European Commission through the Oil Bulletin presents consumer prices and net prices (excluding duties and taxes) of petroleum products in each EU member state each week.   The Oil Bulletin is updated weekly and can be accessed on the internet by visiting
http://ec.europa.eu/energy/observatory/oil/bulletin_en.htm.

  The Tables below have been produced using data from this website. Table 1 sets out the price of unleaded petrol and Table 2 sets out the price of diesel in each member state for the last 10 years.   



  Table 1 - Unleaded Petrol - Prices are in euros and per 1000 litres

Unleaded Petrol20/10/201421/10/201322/10/201217/10/201118/10/201019/10/200920/10/200822/10/200723/10/200617/10/2005
Austria626.64641.79693.43613.75513.24408.65448.83491.7432.6519.03
Belgium632.05649.07711.06699.82547.75398.83500.96520.36409.66511.2
Croatia697.32730.64707.64630.94507.72402.39412.11   
Bulgaria617.14639.62        
Cyprus673.28697.37790.10677.04567.41474.01534.27532.02453.59542.59
Czech Republic633.99648.45743.64650.29547.05434.77520.61495.65428.72520.32
Denmark643.48731.30741.00727.84572.04498.27434.81526.1402.64493.36
Estonia616.40653.06733.90632.23499.04439.84459.86453.33364.74471.67
Finland652.91679.53768.17672.54565.19464.74538.11461.3419.5509.71
France603.03631.73706.88645.19526.24421.56461.51473.58379.77451.98
Germany578.27662.31721.13649.70503.48439.62410.21496.13379.34480.6
Greece636.50662.29754.12677.64540.68457.35529.25518.09438.52531.38
Hungary619.01661.44781.96660.05530.83446.42491.02499.54430.99483.02
Ireland610.98686.82711.22687.21524.40469.71530.87493.68432.53539.14
Italy660.98686.90779.67700.07568.36489.72513.38530.55452.49547.72
Latvia616.06648.01752.79665.63536.32419.66537.06476.5399.91487.23
Lithuania640.18699.67752.02679.45540.16445.81515.99461.55413.43486.3
Luxembourg595.85669.88736.30669.73546.45443.20498.68530.11434.41507.51
Malta710.96722.48827.23725.54570.09561.62704.61592.34604.17568.65
Netherlands605.49649.58756.18654.82531.36458.14484.69573.76459522
Poland611.18662.85743.14598.83514.51428.03512.54503.96449.72546.53
Portugal621.37662.70755.42671.52546.80464.55545.33503.78446.76533.8
Romania621.14648.25702.52635.04530.55441.78541.8   
Slovakia654.00654.00744.00649.83538.44451.05534.24485.25426.01479.5
Slovenia619.47630.89732.66630.64492.51409.66546464.33398.43470.23
Spain652.58699.22724.63684.54555.50473.28504.22510.63420.66503.43
Sweden567.71665.45696.66622.83493.59414.70381.29457.11366.99448.91
United Kingdom588.22610.29703.41619.27475.89384.85479.74471.53385.72482.34


  Table 2 - Diesel - Prices are in euros and per 1000 litres
Diesel20/10/201421/10/201322/10/201217/10/201118/10/201019/10/200920/10/200822/10/200723/10/200617/10/2005
Austria647.86717.25758.93685.13552.15439.90569.41528.01482.18523.51
Belgium646.52702.48787.35754.55588.93428.10637.56584.72505.24581.75
Bulgaria751.85764.63750.08689.74514.37405.46515.9   
Croatia657.63701.67        
Cyprus709.06775.67833.12742.48595.93504.96648.15576.08502.03552.43
Czech Republic698.37731.46800.33723.35597.08463.06630.59538.71492.13520.37
Denmark699.48869.79812.33756.58587.19494.11543.35565.27480.44545.35
Estonia622.91703.75772.08668.75539.22435.16564.66516.53450.26519.35
Finland704.14763.01818.50755.09608.09487.91692.35517.18484.44572.7
France604.52675.23757.64683.05549.69430.71564.76523.11457.53517.58
Germany606.07724.56813.63713.63543.05471.62573.3550.61456.32518.8
Greece736.86781.93892.16776.04641.00507.73689.89581.62517.57575.99
Hungary668.42747.67835.46727.73583.84470.17612.83544.87516.2526.95
Ireland638.40729.34744.33712.62558.90471.79721.2543.51498.88573.26
Italy677.08741.92826.58751.94601.29499.07620.9583.31514.8600.93
Latvia661.41713.37797.14737.84581.70434.07638.15530.37476.67522.56
Lithuania694.16775.34798.58736.90580.16448.27604.41503.1475.98538.19
Luxembourg634.84722.52788.93702.31568.47461.63612.19567.05496.7547.65
Malta730.14750.14778.62727.77562.85461.16776.53593.45589.49579.64
Netherlands631.60714.53799.66714.20544.65459.89588.39581.78514554
Poland638.47721.07776.92672.32567.74438.73615550.59505.23533.95
Portugal657.42750.36836.05754.29599.23481.42648.97556.67492.95538.71
Romania670.20729.89784.62700.79579.00451.63648.52   
Slovakia685.62752.28821.45714.78576.54450.62635.83525.23479.99522.51
Slovenia639.07684.21763.24680.71533.08413.83652.17518458.48508.73
Spain681.88755.87792.58738.37584.26485.35611.42557.92490.8539.6
Sweden647.46752.40829.43717.50554.42455.19535.54541.75491.82554.05
United Kingdom636.61683.73753.91669.19508.19396.23608.24497.02455.27517.86

Credit Unions

 267. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will instruct the liquidators at a credit union (details supplied) in County Kildare to engage with the local community and members of the credit union to put in place a plan for the future use of the credit union building as a resource for the community. [40914/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan On 16 December 2013, Mr Jim Luby of McStay Luby Chartered Accountants was appointed by the High Court, under the Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Resolution) Act 2011, as liquidator of Newbridge Credit Union Limited (in liquidation). 

  The liquidator owes a duty to the creditors of Newbridge Credit Union Limited and must account for his actions to the High Court. As such, the disposal of the assets of the credit union is a matter for the liquidator.

  As Minister for Finance, I do not have powers to issue instructions to a liquidator appointed by the High Court.

   

Tax Credits

 268. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if the Revenue Commissioners treat income tax credits for male waiters and female waiters equally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40916/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the flat rate expense allowances (FREs) for waiters and waitresses were initially agreed in the late 1950's with staff representatives from the hotel industry and were last reviewed in 1986.

  In general terms, FREs are granted on the basis of claims submitted in respect of specific costs incurred by specific employee groups and are not granted on a gender basis for any group of employees.   

  A key feature of the system of granting FREs is that it reduces the need for employees to make individual expense claims to Revenue.

  I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, having regard to the passage of time since the last review of FREs for waiters and waitresses, they will shortly initiate a review of these FREs with the appropriate staff representative bodies.   

  In the review, the Revenue Commissioners will explore with the representative bodies whether the gender differentiated allowances are still appropriate having regard to the changes which have taken place in the hospitality industry during that time.

  Notwithstanding the flat rate expenses regime, it is always open to any employee who incurs expense wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of his or her office or employment, to make a claim for a tax deduction based on his or her actual deductible expenditure, instead of the flat rate expenses deduction that would normally be granted in such circumstances.

Universal Social Charge Payments

 269. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding the universal social charge. [40917/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware, the Universal Social Charge (USC) was introduced in Budget 2011 to replace the Income Levy and the Health Levy. It was a necessary measure to widen the tax base, remove poverty traps and raise revenue to reduce the budget deficit. It is a more sustainable charge than those it replaced. It is applied at a low rate on a wide base, and the revenues collected play a vital part in meeting the many expenditure demands placed on the Exchequer.

The USC is an individualised charge based on the income of each individual. There is no transferability of credits or bands for married couples as applies in the income tax system. However, for the examples given, the cumulative liability to USC for employees is exactly the same in both cases.

Notwithstanding this, the income tax system allows married couples to be jointly assessed so that they can choose to the transfer the personal tax credit and up to €9,000 of the standard rate band, to a higher earning spouse (where the credit and/or the standard rate band cannot be utilised fully by the income of the transferring spouse). In the examples given, an individual earning €20,000, would be in a position to transfer the full €9,000 of the standard rate band to their spouse earning €120,000. Where both spouses earn €70,000 each, the standard rate band is used up fully by each spouse, as a consequence of the levels of their separate incomes.

VAT Exemptions

 270. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan in view of the most recent cuts to school budgets which have resulted in principals in County Wicklow indicating they may not be able to heat their school for every day of term over the winter months, his views on making schools exempt from VAT to assist with purchasing fuel, and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40984/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I would point out that schools are and always have been exempt from VAT.  Paragraph 4(3) of Schedule 1 to the VAT Consolidation Act 2010 provides an exemption from VAT for the provision of children or young people's education by establishments recognised by the State. Irish VAT law is guided by the EU VAT Directive, with which it must comply, and this provision mirrors Article 132, paragraph 1(i) of the VAT Directive, which provides that EU Member States must exempt from VAT such education.

VAT exemption is where a person is not required to charge VAT on any services or goods they supply, while not being entitled to claim back any VAT paid on the costs associated with their business.   As schools are exempt from VAT they are not entitled to claim back VAT on purchases related to the running of schools, such as fuel. It is not possible under Irish or EU VAT law for schools to make a claim for the VAT they incur on their inputs.

Revenue Commissioners Resources

 271. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on  Zoom on  asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his plans to maintain the walk-in Revenue Commissioners office in Tallaght, Dublin 24. [40988/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am assured by the Revenue Commissioners that the provision of a quality customer service to taxpayers is a key corporate priority for Revenue.   Revenue is committed to ensuring that their service for all customers is suitably tailored to meet demand levels and that a range of speedy and efficient contact channels for customers is available. In addition, Revenue is committed to ensuring that the delivery of their customer service is as cost effective as possible for the Exchequer, having regard to the resources available and the need to balance the deployment of resources between service provision and the further key corporate priority of tackling non-compliance with tax and duty obligations.

  In recent years, despite budgetary and resource constraints, Revenue has improved the delivery of customer services. In particular, Revenue's PAYE Anytime service is used by thousands of customers to conduct their business with Revenue. Revenue's On-Line Service (ROS) provides a similarly efficient service for business tax customers.   

  These on-line services (available at
www.revenue.ie  .) are designed to provide customers with quick, convenient and cost-effective ways of conducting business with Revenue.

  Revenue is also fully committed to providing a quality service to those customers whose preference is to deal with them in person, for example:

-a regionalised lo-call telephone service is available for PAYE taxpayers. The Dublin Region contact number is 1890 333 425, and the contact numbers for the other Regions are available on www.revenue.ie. There are also phone helplines for business taxpayers and the respective contact details are communicated directly to those taxpayers, and are also easily accessible on www.revenue.ie  .

  -a correspondence service, with contact addresses for the respective Tax Districts also on www.revenue.ie.

  -in the Dublin area, the Central Revenue Information Office (CRIO) has state-of-the-art facilities for dealing with customers who wish to carry out transactions face to face with a Revenue staff member.   

  The CRIO is located at O'Connell St./Cathedral St., Dublin 1, and is open from 8.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. The CRIO is convenient to all of the main public transport routes into Dublin city, and it has the capacity to deal with the current demand level for "walk-in" counter services by Revenue customers in the greater Dublin area.

  As with any modern service provider, the Deputy will appreciate that good business practice requires Revenue to constantly review service delivery to ensure that they have the correct balance across the channels to suit demand levels and changing customer preferences. Accordingly, the opening hours of public offices and telephone services are subject to ongoing review in order to most effectively meet peaks and troughs of customer demand levels.

  The vast majority of customers in Revenue's public offices have relatively straightforward informational enquiries, or wish to carry out routine transactions such as claiming tax credits or refunds. These transactions can be carried out much more effectively on-line or by telephone. With this increasing uptake in on-line and telephone transactions, the demand level in the Tallaght Revenue Information Office (TRIO) has been steadily declining, with a reduction of some 50% in the number of customers in recent years.   

  The opening hours of the office have accordingly been adjusted in tandem with the reduced demand and in that context the office closed on 5 August last.

  In the lead-up to the closure, every effort was made to ensure that there would be no reduction in the quality of service to customers:

  -Public notices were placed in TRIO to ensure customer awareness and to highlight the service alternatives;

  -The TRIO staff liaised with the Tallaght Citizens Information Office and supplied that office with the most popular tax forms and leaflets;

  -TRIO staff also pro-actively liaised with other local agencies and large local employers to advise them about the August closure and alternatives services to meet their needs.

  Revenue is confident that customers in Tallaght will continue to receive the same high levels of customer service and the Dublin South County Tax District has been closely monitoring contacts from their customers.

  In that context, it should be noted that with a view to managing a peak customer demand in the run up to the pay and file deadline for self assessed taxpayers, and the local property tax pay and file campaign,  TRIO reopened on 15 October last to provide a morning only service from Wednesday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm. The ongoing provision of the TRIO service will kept under continuous review, having regard to demand for the service, seasonal or otherwise, the availability of resources and the need to balance the deployment of resources across the range of customer service and compliance functions.

Bank Restructuring

 272. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a State supported bank is planning to outsource a number of functions (details supplied); the number of employees who will be affected; the plans the bank has for the future provision of those services; the way the terms and conditions of those employees will be protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40989/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware under the Relationship Frameworks the State does not intervene in the day to day operations of the banks or their management decisions regarding commercial matters.

In the case of AIB, the bank has previously indicated that as part of its restructuring plan to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, outsourcing of certain functions would be considered in consultation with unions and affected staff. I have also been informed by the bank that there have been no compulsory redundancies as a result of its recent outsourcing activities. Any staff who transfer under outsourcing arrangements transfer under the TUPE regulations.

Financial Services Ombudsman

 273. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his plans to change the rule whereby a person can only submit a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman in respect of a product sold to them within the past six years; if he accepts that this rule excludes many consumers from being able to take a case to the Financial Services Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40995/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Firstly, I must point out that the Financial Services Ombudsman is independent in the performance of his statutory functions and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on how he performs those duties.

Under the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended, a consumer is not entitled to make a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman if the conduct complained of occurred more than six years before the complaint is made.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is currently progressing the amalgamation of the Offices of both the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman.  A Steering Group chaired by my Department with representatives from the Financial Services Ombudsman, the Pensions Ombudsman, the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Social Protection is meeting to consider the best way to progress the amalgamation.

The question of the timeframe under which complaints can be reviewed is a policy matter which will be considered as the legislation to effect the amalgamation is being developed. I am of course mindful of the need to provide the necessary protection to the consumer over the longer term. However, the issues in this regard are complex involving a range of considerations including the interface with the Statute of Limitations, existing consumer protection laws, complaints mechanisms and the availability of records.

Financial Services Ombudsman

 274. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the further recourse a person has if the Financial Services Ombudsman decides against them in respect of a complaint which has been submitted; his plans to introduce changes in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40996/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Firstly, I must point out that the Financial Services Ombudsman is independent in the carrying out of his duties.   

  I have no role in the day to day workings of the office or in the decision which he takes.

  One of the main roles of the Financial Services Ombudsman is to investigate, mediate and adjudicate complaints about the conduct of regulated financial service providers.   

  Investigations by the Financial Services Ombudsman are free of charge to the consumer. 

  I have been advised by the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman that at all times the Bureau adheres to the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004.   This legislation provides for right of appeal to the High Court against the Financial Services Ombudsman's findings as following:

  "57CL(1) - If dissatisfied with a finding of the Financial Services Ombudsman, the complainant or the regulated financial service provider concerned may appeal to the High Court against the finding.

  (2) The Financial Services Ombudsman can be made a party to an appeal under this section.

  (3) An appeal under this section must be made

  (a) within such period and in such manner as is prescribed by rules of court of the High Court, or

  (b) within such further period as that Court may allow."

  I have no plans to make changes in this area but, as the Deputy may be aware, my Department is currently progressing the amalgamation of the Offices of both the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman. The right of appeal is a policy matter which will be considered as the legislation to effect the amalgamation is being developed.

Tax Code

 275. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will change the tax status where middle and low income earners pay more tax then large corporations; if this status has changed following budget 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [41079/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Deputy will be aware that individuals and corporations are taxed on a very different basis and that it is highly unlikely that any low or middle income earners pay more tax than large corporations.

In addition to the Corporation Tax that companies pay on their profits, they also are liable for employer PRSI contributions in respect of their employees, which are charged at a much higher rate than the rate which applies to employees. In addition, large corporations may have other tax obligations that arise as a result of their operations.

All employees are entitled to a series of tax credits which help reduce their tax liability. In addition, the changes I have introduced in Budget 2015 will ensure that all those who currently pay income tax and/or USC will see a reduction in their tax bill from next year.

Ireland already has one of the most progressive income tax systems in the developed world. To preserve that progressivity, the Budget also contains USC measures which have the effect of limiting the maximum benefit of the tax measures to approximately €14 per week for any individual taxpayer, which means that those with very high incomes will only benefit to the same extent, as those with incomes at the level of the ceiling imposed, i.e. at approximately €70,000.


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