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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 157-182
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Issues
 Header Item Tax Compliance
 Header Item Departmental Telecommunications
 Header Item European Central Bank Issues
 Header Item Tax Code
 Header Item Property Taxation Administration
 Header Item Budget Submissions
 Header Item European Central Bank Issues
 Header Item Property Taxation Administration
 Header Item Central Bank of Ireland Issues
 Header Item Credit Unions Issues
 Header Item Fiscal Policy
 Header Item IBRC Mortgage Loan Book
 Header Item Banking Inquiry
 Header Item Personal Debt
 Header Item Tax Rebates
 Header Item Tax Reliefs Availability
 Header Item Property Taxation Application
 Header Item Credit Unions Issues
 Header Item Departmental Bodies
 Header Item Excise Duties Issues
 Header Item Tax Agreements

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 813 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 144 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 157-182

Departmental Agencies Issues

 157. 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 if he will provide in tabular form the number of silent SMS messages the Revenue Commission or any agency under his remit has instructed providers to send in the past three years and by network provider; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37068/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am assuming from the question raised by the Deputy that “silent SMS messages” refer to the practice of sending a text message to a mobile telephone without the knowledge of the receiving mobile telephone’s owner and that it is a technique that can be used, inter alia, to locate a person’s whereabouts. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners and other bodies under the remit of my Department that they have not instructed any network provider to send silent SMS messages in the past three years.

  Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 133.

Tax Compliance

 159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the amount of outstanding liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37093/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that it is not yet possible to fully quantify the tax liability of the person in question due to his failure to file outstanding tax returns. I am further advised that Revenue has agreed to a number of time extensions with the person’s tax advisor to facilitate the filing requirement but unfortunately no returns have been received to date.

Revenue has confirmed to me that it cannot enter any type of payment negotiation or delay enforcement activity in circumstances where the person in question will not file all outstanding tax returns.

Departmental Telecommunications

 160. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he is considering introducing a freephone number to contact Revenue in view of the fact that mobile devices cannot avail of the current freephone number and so many households no longer have landlines. [37104/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they provide freephone contact numbers for certain specific services. For example, Revenue operates a Confidential Freephone line (1800 295 295) for reporting information regarding the smuggling of drugs and the smuggling or illicit sale of tobacco, alcohol or road fuel. The annual Revenue Budget helpline (1800 314 414) is also a freephone number.

I am further advised that the Revenue website provides comprehensive lists of contact numbers for various offices around the country including details of low cost telephone numbers (1890 LoCall) for their most popular services. Where these contact details are presented, the Revenue website also clearly indicates that rates charged for the use of 1890 (LoCall) numbers may vary among different service providers and recommends that customers only ring 1890 numbers using a landline as calls made using mobile phones may be expensive.

The Revenue Commissioners also advise that they are continually seeking ways to reduce telephone call costs for customers contacting them and in this context they are currently exploring alternative telephone service options.

European Central Bank Issues

 161. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the arrangements his Department has in place for a liaison office to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt Germany; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37138/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The European Central Bank is an independent treaty-based institution. As the Deputy will be aware, the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, while independent, is a member of the Governing Council of the ECB, along with the other 27 governors of the national central banks of the other EU member states. Both I and my officials continue to have ongoing engagement with the ECB, including at meetings of the Eurogroup and Ecofin. In light of the above, it is not considered appropriate nor necessary to invest in a specific liaison office in Frankfurt at this time.

Tax Code

 162. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his plans to ensure that the taxation system for multinational companies is retained to ensure that this country remains an attractive destination for these multinational companies who give much needed employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37184/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan A competitive corporate tax offering is a central plank of our economic recovery strategy and I am happy to advise the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to the12.5% corporation tax rate, which has the support of the vast majority of the members of this House. The changes that I announced in Budget 2013 and introduced in Finance Act 2013 highlight the on-going work by my Department to ensure that the Irish corporate tax offering stays competitive as we work to attract investment and jobs to Ireland. This year, this included further enhancements to the Research and Development tax credit regime and the introduction of a tax regime for Real Estate Investment Trusts as well as a package of measures to assist the small and medium enterprise sector (among others).

Property Taxation Administration

 163. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if all of our moneys paid in property tax will go towards funding badly needed local services or will the money be used to reduce the national deficit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37187/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Local Government Fund (LGF) is a special central fund which was established in 1999 under the Local Government Act 1998. It is financed by the full proceeds of motor tax and an Exchequer contribution. The Fund provides local authorities with the finance for general discretionary funding of their day-to-day activities and for non-national roads, and funding for certain local government initiatives.

Receipts from the Local Property Tax received in 2013, which already total €191 million in the period to end-August, will remain in the Exchequer and will be used to meet the many expenditure obligations faced by the State.

However, Section 157 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, as amended, provides that, in each financial year commencing with 2014, the Minister shall pay from the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax, including any interest paid thereon, paid into the Central Fund during that year.

Budget Submissions

 164. 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 support the budget submission from NCBI on the 17,300 persons living with significant sight loss here. [37220/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan My Department has so far received in excess of 300 Pre-Budget Submissions from a wide range of groups and individuals. These are being considered by the relevant officials in the context of Budget and Finance Bill preparation.

I can confirm that a submission from the NCBI has been received. However, as the Deputy will be aware, it is not the practice of the Minister for Finance to discuss the details of measures which may be under consideration as part of the Budget and Finance Bill.

  Questions Nos. 165 and 166 answered with Question No. 145.

European Central Bank Issues

 167. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he supports recent proposals by the European Central Bank to publish the minutes of the Governing Council meetings that are held on a monthly basis, as opposed to the 30-year embargo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37240/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy is aware, the ECB is independent and this independence is set out in Article 282(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which states that the European Central Bank "shall be independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances".

It should further be noted that Article 7 of the European System of Central Banks Statute provides that ‘neither the ECB, nor a national central bank, nor any member of their decision-making bodies shall seek or take instructions from Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies, from any government of a Member State or from any other body.’

It is therefore inappropriate that any statement should be made by me on the matter of publishing the ECB Governing Council minutes which is a matter for the ECB itself to decide.

Property Taxation Administration

 168. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if receipts will be issued to persons who pay the local property tax; when same will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37257/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that payments are acknowledged in all circumstances where a person pays Local Property Tax (LPT) via Revenue’s online service. Since July 2011 paper receipts no longer issue in respect of any tax payments. This decision was taken on the basis that the vast majority of taxpayers conduct business with Revenue via its online service. The online service facilitates direct access to payment information and therefore customers have no need for a paper receipt. The change has resulted in significant cost savings in terms of postage, stationery and staff resources.

This arrangement now also applies to LPT and customers who file online receive an electronic acknowledgement and have ongoing access to their return and payment details. The only exception in regard to paper receipts is where a person pays LPT online through the telephone helpline, 1890 200 255. In such circumstances a paper acknowledgement issues within two weeks.

Customers who file and pay using the paper LPT return do not receive a paper receipt. They do of course have evidence of LPT payments through their own financial institution records. However, in circumstances where a payment fails for whatever reason, Revenue makes direct contact with the customer.

I am also advised that where customers opt to pay LPT using one of the Revenue appointed third party payment service providers, receipts issue from the provider for each payment made. The appointed payment service providers are An Post Taxpay, Payzone and Omnivend.

Central Bank of Ireland Issues

 169. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the pension entitlements and any other redundancy benefits that is being paid out and was paid out to the former Financial Regulator (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37262/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan It is a matter of public record that the former Financial Regulator retired on 31 January 2009. I am informed by the Central Bank that he received a salary of €84,501 which included compensation (€47,550) in respect of his availability to the Authority for a 3 month period post retirement and payment for accrued untaken annual leave (€13,178.11).

I am also informed that as the former Chief Executive, who had 2 years remaining on his contract, facilitated significant organisational change by his retirement, he received additional notional service and immediate pension payment without actuarial adjustment, consistent with the Central Bank Financial Services Authority of Ireland Superannuation Scheme rules. He also received a payment of €151,500, equivalent to six months remuneration in lieu of the time remaining on his contract. His retirement lump sum and pension was based on a final reckonable salary of €285,341 and 40 years reckonable service.

In line with other public sector pension reductions, the former Financial Regulator’s annual pension has since been reduced twice by a total of €24,027.72 per annum.

Credit Unions Issues

 170. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the measures being taken to ensure the future of credit unions in an area (details supplied) in County Wicklow; the current proposals he and his Department have for safeguarding the community institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37269/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan This Government established the Commission on Credit Unions in May 2011 to make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions, taking into account their not-for-profit mandate, their volunteer ethos and community focus, while paying due regard to the need to fully protect members’ savings and financial stability.

The Commission published its final Report in March 2012 and over sixty of its recommendations have been implemented in the Credit Union and Co-operation with Overseas Regulators Act 2012. The legislation contains measures which will reform and strengthen credit unions and deals with four broad areas namely: Prudential regulation; Governance; Restructuring, including the establishment of the Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo); and Stabilisation.

All sections of the Act are currently being commenced and will be aligned to the introduction of the underpinning Central Bank regulations, which will see implementation in a coherent and cohesive manner in accordance with the published Implementation Plan.

The Act introduces new functions for the Board of Directors which has responsibility for the general control and management of the credit union. These functions include setting the strategy, monitoring the implementation of the strategic plan and reviewing it on a regular basis as well as ensuring that the credit union is on a sound financial footing. This should allow a credit union to satisfy itself on its long-term viability. Where appropriate a credit union should engage with ReBo regarding restructuring options.

Fiscal Policy

 171. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will outline the parameters of the medium-term economic plan for Ireland once we exit the international bail-out programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37272/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The enhanced budgetary architecture introduced over recent years means that, even after exiting the EU-IMF Programme, Ireland will still be subject to further requirements under the terms of the Fiscal Compact and to the new economic governance regime that has been brought in at European level as a result of the crisis. On the budgetary side, this includes requirements to reduce the General Government deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015 and achieve a structural balance in the medium term, while also taking action to reduce our General Government Debt to GDP ratio.

As we move out of the Programme and, subsequently, out of Excessive Deficit Procedure in 2016, a multi-annual fiscal sustainability plan will ensure the full benefits of our budgetary efforts are secured and that our continuing obligations, both under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2012 and at a European level, are met.

The Medium-Term Economic Strategy is therefore intended to cover the period 2014-2020 and will address macroeconomic and fiscal challenges in the post EU-IMF Programme period, reflecting the Programme for Government’s focus on growth and employment.

IBRC Mortgage Loan Book

 172. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the reason individual homeowner mortgages were not disposed of at a discounted rate in the liquidation of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, although other loans were.  [37289/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Special Liquidators are obligated to ensure that the assets of IBRC are sold at a price which maximises the overall return for its creditors including the State. As a result the Special Liquidators are currently in the process of devising and implementing a sales process in respect of these assets. I have been advised by the Special Liquidators that the valuation process is on- going and that the Special Liquidators are taking professional advice as to whether a loan should be sold individually or as part of a portfolio in order to ensure that the maximum value is obtained for that asset within the instructed timeframe.

The Special Liquidators have begun writing to all IBRC borrowers to update them on the sale of their IBRC Loans and Collateral Obligations. The Special Liquidators are also providing borrowers with an opportunity to make written representations on the method of disposal of their loans and the criteria for determining who may bid for loan assets.

In arriving at the valuation of IBRC loan assets (including residential mortgage loan assets), the independent advisers have been advised to apply a discount rate of 4.5% in determining the present value of future cash flows of the asset in the case where a discounted cash flow valuation methodology is employed. Further, a discount of 2.32% will be applied to all loan asset valuations to take into account security and title issues associated with loan assets, to arrive at the Valuation Price.

Therefore I, as Minister for Finance, in my Instructions to the Special Liquidators have not differentiated between residential mortgages loan assets and other loan assets for valuation purposes.

The decision concerning how the loans will be packaged for sale and what bidders constitute qualifying bidders for the purposes of the sales process is to be made by the Special Liquidators.

Banking Inquiry

 173. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on a recent survey that two thirds of business owners believe that politicians should be kept well away from any inquiry into what went on in Irelands banking system in the run up to the economic crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37303/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy is aware the legislation underpinning the banking inquiry was passed on 24th July 2013. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will be bringing proposals to Government shortly on the details of the inquiry. In line with the legislation it will be a matter for Oireachtas to choose which committee will conduct the inquiry and the form that inquiry will take including who will be called to give evidence.

Personal Debt

 174. 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 has any concerns over the independence of StepChange Debt Charity as the selected third party service provider for the Central Bank's pilot scheme for multi-debt restructuring given that it is funded by financial institutions. [37308/13]

 175. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of financial institutions currently operating here funded directly or through their British associates, StepChange Debt Charity. [37309/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 175 together.

As the Deputy is aware, many distressed borrowers have multiple debts with different lenders and have to deal with each lender on each debt. This makes it difficult for a borrower and his or her lenders to address the personal debt difficulties on a whole of debt basis.

In view of this, at the start of March the Central Bank commenced a process to facilitate the development of a co-ordinated approach among lenders to the resolution of multiple debts owed by distressed borrowers. The Central Bank has informed me that it facilitated the process whereby, following a Request for Information to a number of parties, the Central Bank announced in July 2013 that the lenders participating in the scheme had appointed StepChange Debt Charity (StepChange) as the service provider for the scheme.

The aim of the pilot scheme, which is voluntary by both debtors and creditors, is to achieve sustainable and fair outcomes without the need for the borrower to enter the statutory insolvency process. It is focused on enhancing cooperation between lenders of secured and unsecured debt at an early stage.

The Central Bank has informed me that StepChange is a UK based not-for-profit organisation with over 20 years’ experience giving free and impartial advice to people who are struggling with problem debt. StepChange will operate the pilot scheme on behalf of participating lenders, engaging directly with distressed borrowers to establish appropriate loan modifications as part of a longer term resolution of their financial difficulties.

I understand that in the UK, StepChange is funded by creditors. This is made possible by the charitable contributions that creditors make to Stepchange. Details can be found at
http://www.stepchange.org/aboutus/Ourapproach.aspx . The Central Bank has advised that under the provision of Section 33AK of the Central Bank Act, the Central Bank cannot comment on the funding provided by individual financial institutions to third parties.

Tax Rebates

 176. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if a person (details supplied) in County Limerick is entitled to a tax refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37319/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners that the issues arising in this case have all been dealt with. As far as Revenue is aware, the person named is satisfied with the outcomes; if however there are outstanding matters, he should contact Ms Helen Daly, Revenue House, Cork, telephone 021 6027625.

Tax Reliefs Availability

 177. 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 consider extending the right to tax relief on the cost of maintaining a guide dog to families who have the use of an autism assistance dog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37331/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan A blind person who maintains a trained guide dog is allowed a sum of €825 per year in computing the gross eligible health expenses. This is the equivalent of a tax credit of €165 and is only available in respect of fully trained guide dogs.

The qualification criteria for granting this additional relief is that the individual must be entitled to the Blind Person’s Tax Credit under section 468 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA) and also provide written confirmation from the Irish Guide Dogs Association that he or she is the registered owner of a trained guide dog.

To qualify for the Blind Person’s Tax Credit, an individual or the individual’s spouse or civil partner must have impaired vision to an extent specified in the legislation and certified by an eye specialist, i.e. a medical practitioner with an additional qualification in Ophthalmic Medicine or Ophthalmic Surgery, or a registered Optometrist. A doctor's certificate is not sufficient.

Relief in respect of health expenses is allowed in accordance with the provisions of section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. In order to qualify for relief an individual must show that he or she has incurred health expenses for the provision of health care. For the purposes of section 469 "health care" is the prevention, diagnosis, alleviation or treatment of an ailment, injury, infirmity, defect or disability.

Given that there is a requirement for certification by a qualified practitioner in order to obtain the Blind Person’s Tax Credit, the use of a fully trained guide dog to alleviate the disability is deemed to constitute a health expense and it is on this basis that this additional relief for health expenses is allowed.

I understand that autism assistance dogs are primarily trained to act to improve the behaviour of the child by promoting calmness and providing companionship. I will ensure that my officials consider all available expert medical research on the benefits of certain treatments in considering any proposed extension of tax relief on medical grounds.

Property Taxation Application

 178. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if a building that is used as a dwelling but which has no toilet facilities is liable for the local property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37351/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan For Local Property Tax (LPT) purposes a residential property is defined as any building or structure or part of a building which is used as, or is suitable for use as, a dwelling. The Deputy states that the property is currently being used as a dwelling and therefore it would be subject to LPT unless an exemption can be claimed for another reason. Information on LPT exemptions is available on the Revenue website, www.revenue.ie. LPT is a self-assessed tax so it is a matter for the property owner to calculate the tax due based on his or her assessment of the market value of the property. The condition of the property would be one of the factors a property owner would take into account in valuing his or her property and the absence of toilet facilities in a residential property may have an impact on its valuation.

Credit Unions Issues

 179. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total paid to a special manager (details supplied) in County Kildare since their appointment. [37369/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that from the 13 January 2012 to 26 April 2013 a total of €1,252,142 (including VAT) has been approved by the High Court for payment to the Special Manager in Newbridge Credit Union.

The rates payable to the Special Manager are set by the High Court and the actual fees are approved by the High Court after provision of supporting information by the Special Manager.

The hourly rate of fee payable to the Special Manager was reduced from €423 to €375 following an application by the Central Bank of Ireland to the Court in February 2012 and this included a corresponding reduction for staff working for the Special Manager.

Departmental Bodies

 180. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the current status of the proposed amalgamation of the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman; the progress made on this to date; when he expects this merger to be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37376/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In line with Government policy, it has been decided to amalgamate the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman. Primary legislation will be required to effect this amalgamation. Both the Department of Social Protection and my Department will be involved in the preparatory work and in the drafting of the necessary legislation. A Steering Group consisting of officials from the Department of Social Protection and my Department will be established shortly to progress the work. The serving Ombudsmen will be consulted during all phases of the work. The enactment of necessary legislation will be subject to the Government legislative programme.

Excise Duties Issues

 181. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on freezing the excise duty on motor fuels in respect of the upcoming budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37394/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan This question relates to potential Budgetary measures. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment in advance of the Budget on what it will contain and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

Tax Agreements

 182. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the tax returned to the Vodafone group; if so, the reason and the cost to the State; and if he will provide any other companies which operate internationally to which the Government has returned tax in the past three years. [37403/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality that they are unable to comment on the circumstances relating to an individual taxpayer. However, in general, bilateral double taxation agreements allocate taxing rights between two countries in order to ensure that income is not subject to double taxation. Tax treaties generally contain a mutual agreement procedure which provides for tax authorities to agree a consistent approach with each other in relation to tax disputes such that a taxpayer does not end up with State A and State B taxing the same income twice. This can result in the reallocation of tax between countries resulting in refunds by one country and additional payments to the other.


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