Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 28 November 2019
Public Accounts Committee
2018 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 9 - Office of the Revenue Commissioners
Chapter 17 - Tax compliance interventions
Chapter 18 - Tax relief on film production
When Mr. Cody was before the committee on 1 June 2017, I raised concerns in relation to MyEnquiries and how it was operating. At that stage, Mr. Cody stated: "Our statistics do not bear out that the process has slowed down, but there are varying degrees of complexity in requests for correspondence, and it depends on what the issue is." In the next response, Mr. Cody stated that it was timely that I asked the question because Revenue - the Collector General - was conducting a review or talking about MyEnquiries in terms of Revenue's internal procedures. I will take it back to where I come from.
If one looks at relevant contracts tax, RCT, section 530P governs the fact that if a subcontractor has tax deducted the surplus becomes available for offset against other liabilities. As I mentioned in 2017, once, all it took was a five-minute phone call whereby someone could contact their local district tax office and state that his or her client had a surplus in RCT and that he or she wanted to offset it against another tax head. I will provide an example from earlier this year. Mr. Cody will bear in mind that my initial inquiry was in 2017. An individual practitioner had a query from a client who had €5,000 of RCT and wanted to allocate €1,000 against his PAYE return. The person had a liability with the Revenue for €1,000 and he also has €5,000 on account with the Revenue under RCT. It was a quarterly P30. It could be a VAT3 or anything in any event because P30s are gone now. It was a quarterly P30 or a quarterly VAT3. Be that as it may, it was due on 23 May last. It was due after the period end, on 23 April. There is nothing new there. Essentially, on 12 April, the practitioner logged on to MyEnquiries. He submitted a request to have €1,000 taken from the RCT and allocated against his VAT in order to discharge that liability. This was on 12 April and it was not due until 23 April. On 22 May, the Revenue issued a demand to that client for collection and payment. The client knew that he had €5,000 on account with Revenue. The first thing he did was to contact the practitioner and ask, "Are you doing your job at all, lads?". He was extremely frustrated. The practitioner had to provide him with a paper trail in terms of what had been done on his behalf. Next, the practitioner went back to MyEnquiries - bear in mind, one is talking about 20 or 25 days of a turnaround - to try and sort out the matters relating to the demand. The demand was reissued.
Let us return to the point where the frustrated practitioner called the Collector General. He picked up the phone to the Collector General and the member of staff of the Collector General's office stated that she could see on the screen in front of her that the €5,000 was there and that €1,000 needed to be allocated but that she could do it. That is what the practitioner was told. Bear in mind where we live. In terms of the advances in the IT available to the Revenue Commissioners, I would have thought this is a basic enough matter. The lady in the Collector-General's office stated that she could not put a stop on the demand going out. The practitioner went back to the RCT section, which was dealing with the inquiries. The official stated, "Yes, I understand where you are coming from". The practitioner asked, "Can I put a complaint in in relation to it?". The practitioner asked if the official point him to where he could submit a complaint on the website. It was not possible to get a complaint through in connection with it. Ultimately, the individual said that maybe the practitioner should talk to his local Deputy in connection with the matter. That is the process as people are experiencing it on MyEnquiries. All it used to take was a five-minute phone call whereby a person could contact someone in the local tax office and ask if he or she would not mind doing what I have outlined. This is not a complex issue but we are turning it into a 25 or 50-day process. The accountant in question asked me to imagine what will happen when the next quarterly P30 or VAT3 return is due. The process will start all over again. I would be grateful if Mr. Cody could comment on that.