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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 197-213
 Header Item Living City Initiative
 Header Item Bank Charges
 Header Item Customs and Excise Staff
 Header Item Tax Code
 Header Item Banking Sector Remuneration
 Header Item Tax Rebates
 Header Item Living City Initiative
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Mortgage Resolution Processes
 Header Item Tax Yield
 Header Item Mortgage Resolution Processes
 Header Item NAMA Portfolio

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 118 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 197-213

Living City Initiative

 197. Deputy Dara Murphy Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan when the living city initiative will be implemented; when the outcome of the consultation process with local authorities and Government agencies will be completed and an announcement on the designated areas be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12911/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Deputy will be aware that I announced in my Budget Statement that the Living City Initiative, which was enacted in the Finance Act 2013, would be extended to now include the cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny as well the original target cities of Limerick and Waterford. The inclusion of these four cities within the Initiative followed the results of a thorough independent ex ante cost benefit analysis.

The Initiative will target certain areas of these six cities, particularly those areas which are most in need of regeneration. Those designated areas will be decided upon following consultations with the relevant local authorities and other Government agencies. Those consultations are currently underway and will form part of the process of applying for EU State Aid approval.

The Initiative cannot be implemented until EU State Aid approval has been received. Similarly, I will not be announcing the areas to be designated until this approval has been received and the initiative is to be commenced. 

It is important to note that I do not see this as a wide-spread Initiative, as it is targeted at those areas which are most in need of attention.

Bank Charges

 198. 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 it is the case that there is a charge from the Government for cancelling a credit card with a bank in this jurisdiction; the amount that charge is; the way it is calculated; and the justification for the charge. [12924/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan There is no charge from the Government for cancelling a credit card with a bank in this jurisdiction. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 124 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provides for an annual stamp duty charge of €30 on credit cards.  The charge is applied where a credit card account is maintained with a financial institution at any time during the 12 month period ending on 1 April in any year.

A financial institution is required to furnish to the Revenue Commissioners a statement showing the number of credit card accounts maintained by the financial institution at any time during the 12 month period ending on 1 April and to pay the annual charge of €30 in respect of such accounts.

The financial institution recoups the amount of the stamp duty from the card account holder on 1 April or, if it hasn t already been charged, at the time that the account is closed during the 12 month period. Where the stamp duty charge has been paid in respect of a credit card account which has been closed, a further charge will not be payable in respect of the same 12 month period where a replacement credit card account is opened with another financial institution.

Customs and Excise Staff

 199. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of staff working in customs and excise for the purpose of the detection of illegal drugs who have statutory powers enabling them to stop and search and arrest persons and search and seize their property when appropriate; the number of these who operate in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [12937/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their office is a fully integrated tax and customs administration and that it is not possible to disaggregate the resources deployed exclusively at any given time on the detection of illegal drugs. Revenue currently has approximately 2,000 staff engaged on activities that are dedicated to targeting and confronting non-compliance. These activities include anti-smuggling and anti-evasion, investigation and prosecution, audit, assurance checks, anti-avoidance, returns compliance and debt collection, and resources are redeployed across them on an ongoing basis in response to Revenue's assessment of risk.

Up to 50 staff based in Co. Mayo are engaged on these activities but additional support from outside the county is available and can be called on to assist in operations as required.  The Deputy will appreciate that, for reasons of operational sensitivity, the Revenue Commissioners are not in a position to give further details of enforcement deployment in specific locations.

Revenue officers are given authorisations, as appropriate, to exercise specific statutory powers relevant to the work in which they are engaged, including powers to stop persons, to conduct searches and to make arrests.

Tax Code

 200. 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 if the single parent tax credit criteria can be amended to reflect equal treatment for both parents in cases where both of the parents of a child have joint custody; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12977/14]

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

Given the difficult fiscal environment, it is essential to review all tax reliefs, credits and incentives 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.  A system that allows multiple claims in respect of the same child or children is unsustainable.

There is no specific tax credit for children in the tax code. Therefore, married or cohabiting couples are unable to avail of any additional credit to assist them in the financial maintenance of their children.  In certain cases, such couples also need to maintain two households due to the location of employment, for example.

It is the responsibility of the parents to look after a child, including financially.  The new credit is targeted to assist principal child carers to take up, or remain in employment.

Notwithstanding the above, as a result of an amendment which I brought forward at Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, a primary carer who is entitled to the credit and who does not wish to avail of it can choose to surrender it.  A secondary carer may then make a claim for the credit, provided that the qualifying child resides with him or her for not less than 100 days in the tax year. In this manner, it is possible for both carers to claim the credit in alternate years, provided that all of the qualifying conditions are met.

It should be noted that where a primary carer is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting they would not be entitled to the new credit (or indeed the former one). In such circumstances the primary carer cannot relinquish the credit to a secondary carer. In addition, a secondary carer who is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting, would not be entitled to the new credit (or indeed the former one) regardless of the marital status of the primary carer.

This measure was only approved by the Oireachtas and enacted in Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 in late December. To amend the legislation in the manner suggested by the Deputy would not take account of all of the potential caring scenarios that exist for the relevant children.

Banking Sector Remuneration

 201. 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 use his shares in Bank of Ireland to vote against the remuneration package of €843,000 paid to the chief executive officer at the Bank's AGM. [12981/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I understand that the Notice of Bank of Ireland's Annual General Meeting and list of proposed resolutions, is due to issue over the coming days. When I have received this I will be in a position to finalise my voting intentions in relation to all resolutions.

Tax Rebates

 202. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the position regarding an application for a tax rebate in 2013 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12956/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for a repayment of tax deducted for 2013 was submitted recently in respect of the person concerned. An overpayment of USC in the sum of €148 arises. A P.21 Balancing Statement and the repayment will issue to the person concerned shortly.

Living City Initiative

 203. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will provide an update on the living city initiative; the progress that has been made on EU state aid approval; the selection process for areas of Dublin city that will qualify; when he expects the process to commence; the person who will be responsible for it; if ordinary citizens and resident groups will have a chance to make submissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13015/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Deputy will be aware that I announced in my Budget Statement that the Living City Initiative, which was enacted in the Finance Act 2013, would be extended to now include the cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny as well the original target cities of Limerick and Waterford. The inclusion of these four cities within the Initiative followed the results of a thorough independent ex ante cost benefit analysis.

The Initiative will target certain areas of these six cities, particularly those areas which are most in need of regeneration. Those designated areas will be decided upon following consultations with the relevant local authorities and other Government agencies. Those consultations are currently underway and will form part of the process of applying for EU State Aid approval, which is also underway.

I would like to refer the Deputy to Section 372AAA of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which states that the areas to be specified under this Initiative will be by order of the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance will therefore be the person responsible for the Initiative.

My Department has received a number of submissions from interested parties including citizens and resident groups. A number of stakeholders, including residents, were also consulted as part of the ex-ante cost benefit analysis which was undertaken in respect of the original pilot cities of Limerick and Waterford.

Departmental Reports

 204. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of external or internal policy reports currently that have been handed to him but not yet published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13031/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In response to PQ 13031/14 and PQ 13048/14 I would like to thank the Deputy for his clarification received on the 20th given the scope of the questions. My officials are now in the process of compiling this information which I will provide as soon as it is compiled.

Departmental Reports

 205. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan when he will publish reports currently in his possession that have not been published to date; if he will outline in tabular form the reports involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13048/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In response to PQ 13031/14 and PQ 13048/14 I would like to thank the Deputy for his clarification received on the 20th given the scope of the questions. My officials are now in the process of compiling this information which I will provide as soon as it is available.

Mortgage Resolution Processes

 206. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will ensure that the mortgage code of conduct will be applied to any mortgages that are bought by international banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13092/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Where regulated financial institutions sell part, or all, of their mortgage book to another regulated financial institution, the same protections apply to borrowers, namely, the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and the Consumer Protection Code. Where a regulated financial institution outsources part, or all, of their mortgage book, the same protections apply to borrowers and the institutions have responsibility for ensuring that these protections are applied by the outsourced company. Where a regulated financial institution sells part, or all, of a mortgage book to an unregulated institution, then the borrower will not be afforded the same level of protections. In their case, the conditions of the original contract will apply.

The Deputy may be aware that, following the meeting of the Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Committee on 26 February 2014, the remaining bidders for the IBRC loan books committed, on a voluntary basis, to abide by the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. This is similar to the commitment given by Apollo which is not a regulated entity. No specific difficulties have been raised about the ongoing operations of Apollo.

As the Deputy may also be aware, the House recently debated a Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill entitled 'Protection of Residential Mortgage Account Holders Bill 2014'. The Government did not oppose the Bill and committed to working with Deputy Michael McGrath and the other members of the Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Committee to achieve the best solution for consumers.

The 'Sale of Loan Books to Unregulated Third Parties Bill', which is listed on the Government Legislative Programme, was always intended to address concerns surrounding the continued applicability of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears following the sale of loan books to unregulated entities. My officials are already examining the complexities of this issue with their colleagues in the Central Bank and in the Attorney General's office.

As I have indicated previously, this is a complex issue. Therefore I am not in a position to say when the draft legislation will be ready for submission to Government. I do not want to bring forward  unworkable legislation or legislation that has unintended consequences for mortgage holders.

Tax Yield

 207. Deputy Anthony Lawlor Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the amount of betting tax Tote Ireland paid to the Exchequer in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. [13148/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Bets taken by Tote Ireland under its Totalisator licence are not subject to betting tax. 

Mortgage Resolution Processes

 208. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his strategy for dealing with more than 30,000 buy-to-let mortgages that are currently more than 90 days in arrears; if he envisages that the number of repossessions in this area will increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13189/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Government is aware of the significant difficulties some homeowners are facing in meeting their mortgage obligations and the Deputy will know that a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem is in place.

The Deputy will be aware of the Central Bank's Mortgage Arrears Resolution Targets (MART) announced last March which sets time bound and measurable targets for the six main lending banks requiring them to systematically address their arrears book. The targets cover both proposed and concluded sustainable solutions with respect to the lenders principal dwelling homes (PDH) and buy-to-let (BTL) mortgagees.  Under this rolling process, quarterly performance targets have been set to the end of June 2014 to require the banks to propose and put in place durable long term solutions to address individual cases of mortgage arrears of more than 90 days in arrears.

The Central Bank has indicated that all six mortgage lenders covered by the MART process have reported that they met the 20% proposed sustainable solutions target for the second quarter of 2013 and also the 30% target for the third quarter in 2013.  In particular, with respect to the third quarter 2013 target, which is the latest available data, the lenders have reported to the Central Bank they had issued proposals to 43% of mortgage accounts in arrears (PDH and BTL) against the 30% target.

The Central Bank's 'Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossession Statistics' published earlier this month, shows that at end-December 2013 there were 145,530 residential mortgage accounts for buy-to-let properties held in the State. Of this total stock of accounts, 30,706, or 21.1 per cent, were in arrears of more than 90 days, reflecting a decrease of 1.5 per cent over the quarter.

In addition, the monthly mortgage restructures and arrears data published by my Department will also provide an impetus for those MART banks to increase the pace of provision of mortgage restructures.  The latest publication, in respect of the end of January, shows that some progress has been made in putting permanent mortgage restructures in place.  For example, the number of permanent restructures of buy-to-let mortgages more than 90 days in arrears has risen from around 5,600 in December to around 5,800 in January 2014.  The data published by my Department and the Central Bank would appear to demonstrate some success by the lenders in addressing the accounts in arrears and putting in place appropriate measures to prevent borrowers from going into arrears.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality has informed me that there was, as expected, a marked increase in the number of Civil Bills lodged in the courts following the passing of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013.  However the Courts Service has indicated that the situation has since stabilised and that, to date, there has been no significant change in the numbers of Civil Bills lodged.  It is however important to point out that the issuing of a Civil Bill does not automatically lead to a repossession, for example a borrower who has not been engaging with his lender may re-engage following the issuing of a Civil Bill and this may lead to an alternative outcome.

Early and effective engagement between borrowers and lenders is key to resolving the cases of mortgage difficulty.  Where there is effective and meaningful engagement by all parties regarding a mortgage difficulty, the Central Bank's mortgage arrears and restructures statistics and my Department's monthly mortgage data publications show that an increasing number of durable long term mortgage restructures are being put in place.  However, it is accepted that it will be necessary for lenders and borrowers to continue to build on this.

NAMA Portfolio

 209. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the contact he has had with National Asset Management Agency regarding the sale of a company (details supplied). [13195/14]

 210. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the reason the management buyout of a company (details supplied) did not proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13196/14]

 211. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the reason the National Asset Management Agency did not honour its notice of decision dated 27 January 2014 that it issued to the management buyout team and which confirmed that the buyout was acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13197/14]

 212. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the conditions the National Asset Management Agency will attach to any bid for a company (details supplied) that will ensure that the jobs at that business will be protected and that their terms and conditions will remain the same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13199/14]

 213. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan when a decision will be made as to who is the preferred bidder for a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13200/14]

 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 if his attention has been drawn to the impending sale of a company (details supplied) by a National Asset Management Agency appointed receiver; the interaction he has had with NAMA regarding this sale; if he will support the retention of the maximum numbers of jobs in the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13912/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 213, inclusive, and 257 together.

This matter was comprehensively addressed by my colleague Minister Bruton during a discussion in the Oireachtas two weeks ago.  As the Oireachtas is aware the company referred to is the subject of a court-appointed Examinership process under the supervision of the High Court and it is important that the independence of that process is respected and that nothing is said that would in any way affect the outcome of the Examinership.  The Examiner will consult with creditors, potential investors and other relevant parties to devise and recommend, if possible, the most appropriate course of action in the interests of the survival of the company and will put that course of action to the court for approval.  NAMA, as a creditor, is one of a number of stakeholders, which include another financial institution, the Revenue Commissioners, landlords, and trade creditors that will be required to vote on the Scheme of Arrangement devised by the Examiner.  The High Court will have the final say and, until then, the company is under its protection.  We must be careful to respect and to avoid any suggestion of interference in this process.

By way of update, I understand that the Examiner is currently in the process of engaging with six parties that, I understand, have expressed an interest in the business.  As part of this process, the Examiner has requested proposals from each of the parties as to their plans for the business and employees of the company.

NAMA's role in relation to this company is that of a secured lender.  In this position, NAMA approved the sale of the assets of the parent company, Staunton Sports, to the existing management team.   This sale could not proceed however because, prior to the management team being in a position to drawdown the requisite funding from its bank, a higher unsolicited bid was indicated in writing by another party to the proposed receiver.  The management team transaction was to have completed by the evening of Friday, 31 January.  However, drawdown of the requisite funding had not happened by lunchtime on Saturday, 1 February at which time the new unsolicited bid was received by the proposed receiver. The facts around this have been confirmed by the management team.   The proposed receiver advised that, if appointed by NAMA, he would be legally obliged to consider the new bid, since he has a statutory obligation to secure the best price reasonably obtainable for the secured assets at the time of their sale. Media reporting of the emergence of this further bid caused concern among suppliers and trade creditors, which the Directors of Staunton Sports brought to NAMA's attention.  Having regard to the deteriorating condition of the business and the company's insolvent position, and based on legal advice, NAMA and the Directors of Staunton Sports decided that Examinership was an alternative option, which would permit all bids to be considered while the Company was under the protection of the High Court.  NAMA is funding the company during the Examinership process, which includes funding the payment of suppliers and staff wages.

I note the statement from the Directors of the company, which acknowledges the support of NAMA in the current Examinership process and states the Board's confidence that the current process will deliver best results for all the stakeholders.


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