Thursday, 28 November 2019
Finance Bill (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019: Second Stage
The proposed Finance Bill (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019 has three Parts. The first Part contains the Short Title and commencement and definitions section. The second Part is to make amendments to the legislation governing the Tax Appeals Commission, primarily to implement recommendations of an independent review carried out in 2018. The third Part relates to the transposition of the EU prospectus regulations by an amendment to Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014.
Part 2 relates to the tax appeals process. I am aware that a number of Senators engaged in discussion of this Bill at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. I confirm that the recommendations of Senators were taken into account in the drafting process.
The Tax Appeals Commission was established on 21 March 2016 under the Finance (Tax Appeal) Act 2015, taking over the former Office of the Appeal Commissioners. Since its establishment, staffing at the commission has grown from two Appeal Commissioners and four administrative staff to five Appeal Commissioners and 22 administrative staff at various grades. However, a number of factors, including the transfer of a substantial number of legacy appeals from Revenue and a change in the appeals process and establishment of the commission, have contributed to the development of a backlog of appeals.
The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, commissioned an independent review of the workload and operations of the Tax Appeals Commission in 2018. This review examined the governance structures, workload and operations of the commission. The Minister has expressed his full support for the recommendations and work on implementation is ongoing both in the Department and the Tax Appeals Commission. The actions taken to date include a significant increase in the commission's budget, the recruitment of three additional temporary Appeal Commissioners and an increase in staffing of administrative and technical grades in the commission.
This Bill will enable the progression of another key recommendation of the independent review which is the appointment of a chairperson of the commission. The chairperson, who will also be an Appeal Commissioner, will be responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of the Tax Appeals Commission and will be accountable to the Minister for Finance in this regard. It is envisaged that the establishment of a commission chairperson will strengthen the body's governance and accountability while bringing the commission's structure in line with other similar bodies.
A number of technical amendments to the Tax Appeals Commission are also being made. The Bill will remove any ambiguity as to the ability of the Tax Appeals Commission to enter into a contract and thus guarantee its independence. It will also clarify some aspects of the existing appeals legislation with respect to the process of appealing a determination to the commission or the High Court in order to facilitate the appeals process.Part 3 of the Bill will amend Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014 as part of the transposition of the EU prospectus regulations directive. Ireland's prospectus framework is implemented into Irish legislation through statutory instrument and Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014. The Bill provides for amendments to Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014 to complete the transposition into Irish law of EU Regulation No. 2017/1129 of the European Parliament and the Council on the prospectus to be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market. The regulation entered into force on 21 July 2019 and repealed the 2003 prospectus directive. Although the majority of the regulation is directly effective, certain provisions had to be transposed into Irish law through the European Union (Prospectus) Regulations 2019, contained in Sl 380/2019, which were enacted on 19 July 2019.
The EU regulation harmonises the requirements for the drawing up, approval and distribution of the prospectus that must be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market. It aims to help companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises access more diverse sources of finance by simplifying the rules applying to prospectus documents while maintaining appropriate investor protections. The regulation aims to reduce the overall cost and administrative burden for companies that are required to issue a prospectus, while enabling investors to make informed investment decisions on the basis of the information provided being accurate, comprehensible, concise and easy to analyse. It was originally intended that the required changes to Ireland's prospectus framework would be made through a consolidated secondary instrument. However, on the basis of legal advice it was deemed necessary to make some amendments through primary legislation, and that is why I am here.
The amendments to Part 23 of the Companies Act 2014 provided for in the Bill are mainly technical in nature. I will also have the opportunity on Committee and Report Stages to debate these matters in depth. I commend the Bill to the Seanad and thank the Senators who engaged at the pre-legislative scrutiny level.