Revenue's powers to be extended

24 November 2013 23:11

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Agency could take over areas including TV licence after success in collecting property tax

On foot of the success of the property tax, the Coalition is weighing up giving Revenue responsibility for other areas, such as the collection of the new TV licence, HSE charges, commercial rates, local government charges and court fines.

The development of the property tax database gives Revenue vast amounts of information on who owns every house in the country.

Although no moves are imminent, the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure are understood to be supportive of the idea of handing more responsibilities to Revenue.

"Revenue has such a good compliance ratio and the best systems in place that Government would be supportive of looking at extending its powers to other areas," a minister told the Sunday Independent.

"The Department of Finance is certainly sympathetic. Revenue are the best people to collect money, so why wouldn't you?"

Officials believe there is a duplication of the collection of money due to State agencies and that some organisations are not effective enough at bringing in monies owed.

"We would like Revenue involved in collecting a whole range of other taxes and funds due to the State," a senior government source said.

Officials believe it makes sense to streamline the payment of funds due to the State.

"A lot of State agencies are chasing the same money. There would be a logic to Government having one agency chasing debts and dividing it up pro rata," a Department of Finance source said. "You professionalise all the collection and maybe get Revenue to oversee it, perhaps move the model under Revenue."

Despite the ongoing controversy over the payment deadline for the property tax, the Government is extremely satisfied with Revenue's handling of the tax and the high level of compliance.

In the first year of the property tax, the compliance rate hit 91 per cent, which equates to returns in respect of 1.6 million properties. This level of payment is considered to be extremely high for a new tax.

Revenue was given responsibility for the collection of the property tax following the household charge debacle, where there was substantial level of non-payment and the approaches of various local authorities varied dramatically.

The revamped TV licence is the next big item in the pipeline where Revenue's expertise may yet be called upon.

Similar to the household charge, there is a high level of evasion with the TV licence in its current format.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is due to announce details of the new broadcasting charge in the coming months.

The consultation document on the broadcasting charge refers merely to a collection agent.

But with one in five households not having a TV licence, there is an obvious problem with enforcement, which will be addressed.

"Minister Rabbitte appears to want them [Revenue] to collect the new version of the TV licence," a government source said.

However, there are also concerns about weakening Revenue's status by piling on other tasks outside of the collection of taxes.

"They are a model of efficiency. But they are a tax-collection body. The policy is set out in the Finance Act. You could undermine their ability to do the things they are tasked to do by asking them to do other duties outside their remit. All responsibility can't move to the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Finance," a source said.

Revenue and the Department of Finance said they were not aware of any plans to extend the powers of the tax-collection agency.


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