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 Header Item Ramming of Garda Vehicles Bill 2015: First Stage
 Header Item  Double Taxation Relief Orders: Motions
 Header Item Finance (Tax Appeals) Bill 2015: Second Stage (Resumed)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 891 No. 2

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Ramming of Garda Vehicles Bill 2015: First Stage

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the imposition of terms of imprisonment on persons found guilty of ramming a Garda vehicle.

I appreciate the opportunity to seek leave to introduce the Bill, which is important. More needs to be done to protect members of An Garda Síochána in the line of duty. The statistics relating to the ramming of Garda vehicle are shocking. There were 244 such instances between 2010 and 2013, which equates to more than one a week. The problem is that ramming a Garda vehicle is not a criminal offence and the Bill aims to make ramming a vehicle deliberately a specific crime. I very much welcome the investment of €29 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012 and a further commitment to invest €46 million in same over the next five years. This will be a major step forward but the maximum protection the State can offer to gardaí in these vehicles would complement that investment. I also welcome the €1.75 million that was recently allocated for increased surveillance by the Garda air units, in particular. However, on the ground, many gardaí find that when they give chase to suspects, very often the suspects will not think twice about ramming their vehicle. Unfortunately, there have been cases in the past where gardaí have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in this manner. A deterrent is needed to prevent the ramming of their vehicles. My Bill proposes a custodial sentence of up to ten years for the deliberate ramming of a Garda car or a vehicle being operated by a garda in the course of his or her duties.

  I hope the Bill will be taken seriously by the Minister for Justice and Equality and her Department. I hope it can be progressed or incorporated into future legislation in the interest of protecting members of the Garda. The figures for the ramming of Garda vehicles are shocking at more than one a week. That is not good enough and, as a society, we cannot tolerate this. The scumbags who perpetrate this on members of An Garda Síochána should be left in no doubt as to the seriousness of their actions and of the ramifications of such actions. The State needs to respond to this problem.

  In the context of rural crime, if we are to give the Garda the best opportunity to target criminals, we need to balance the scales and give the force more of an opportunity to carry out its work in a safer manner. There is an opportunity to make it safer for gardaí by introducing this deterrent. I hope the Bill will be progressed urgently.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Is the Bill opposed?

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Double Taxation Relief Orders: Motions

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Exchange of Information Relating to Tax Matters (Argentine Republic) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Pakistan) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Republic of Zambia) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Exchange of Information Relating to Tax Matters (Commonwealth of The Bahamas) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and on Capital) (Federal Republic of Germany) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Exchange of Information Relating to Tax Matters (Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts) and Nevis) Order 2015,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th September, 2015.

  Questions put and agreed to.

Finance (Tax Appeals) Bill 2015: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Before the adjournment, I was dealing with the provisions of Part 40A. Among other things, it facilitates a more active case management approach by the Appeal Commissioners. In straightforward cases, they will not be required to hold a hearing but can adjudicate and determine the appeal based on paper submissions, subject to the agreement of the taxpayer to this approach. The Appeal Commissioners will be able to dismiss appeals where the taxpayer does not co-operate with them by, for example, providing information such as accounts requested by them. Responsibility for the preparation of a "case stated" for an appeal to the High Court, subject to a time limit, is being given to the Appeal Commissioners themselves instead of the parties to the appeal. Increased transparency and certainty will result from the requirement that all Appeal Commissioners' determinations must be published.

Part 40A contains provisions relating to whether a hearing, or part of a hearing, is to be held in public or in private. The default position is that all hearings are to be held in public, subject to exceptions relating to, for example, issues involving public order or sensitive issues. However, the Appeal Commissioners must hold a private hearing, or a part-private hearing, where an appellant submits a request for this.

Part 5 deals with consequential amendments to the Act of 1997 and certain other enactments. The Part contains amendments to 137 separate sections and Schedules in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. A consequence of the changes being made to the appeal process is the need to make a large number of consequential amendments to provisions relating to appeals in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and in various other taxation Acts contained in Schedule 2. While there are a large number of individual amendments, given they are being made in relation to several different types of taxes and affect a wide range of provisions, most of these are of a similar nature. For this reason, each individual amendment is not explained. The most common amendment is that necessitated by the fact that, under the reformed system, a taxpayer will have to appeal directly to the Appeal Commissioners and not via Revenue as currently happens. Various cross-references that are no longer relevant are being removed - for example, references to Part 40 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 which is being phased out and replaced with the new Part 40A.

Another type of amendment will clarify and make more explicit a right of appeal that is currently only implicitly stated in the various tax and duty Acts. A valid appeal under the revised appeal process will require a specific right of appeal to be given in the relevant tax and duty Act. The opportunity presented by the reform of the appeal process is being taken to rectify any anomalies and inconsistencies that currently exist and to standardise as far as possible the appeal provisions for the various taxes and duties. One example of such standardisation relates to the number of days allowed for the making of an appeal; 30 days is the usual time limit but this has not been standard across all of the taxes and duties. Another example is the alignment of the preconditions for the making of an appeal against different types of Revenue assessments - for example, the requirement to have submitted outstanding returns to Revenue and to have paid the part of the tax liability not in dispute before an appeal can be made.

The Appeal Commissioners are a body with a long lineage, predating the foundation of the State - in fact, dating back to the Act of Excise 1662. The Minister for Finance appoints Appeal Commissioners by virtue of section 850 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Effectively, the Minister has had discretion as to who was appointed and on what terms, subject only to laying details of the appointment before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill proposes to change this by stipulating that appointments will be made by the Minister following an open competition run by the Public Appointments Service, PAS. A recruitment process for new Appeal Commissioners has been conducted by the PAS at my request as the current commissioners have reached retirement age. This competition was conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Bill and I expect to make appointments over the coming weeks.

The Appeal Commissioners role is to act as an independent administrative tribunal in adjudicating disputes between taxpayers and the Revenue Commissioners. The legislation will enhance the independence of the Appeal Commissioners, increase transparency and provide a more efficient appeal system in tax disputes to the benefit of compliant taxpayers and the Exchequer alike. I commend this Bill to the House.


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