Thursday, 28 November 2019
Finance Bill (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019: Second Stage
Gerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive statement. I will try not to repeat all the wonderful aspects that the Minister of State outlined about the Bill and only say that Fianna Fáil welcomes the Bill.
The Minister of State acknowledged there have been significant issues with the Tax Appeals Commission - mainly the lengthy backlog and the number of cases that are before it. At the end of June 2019, there were under its remit 3,543 active appeals. Since its inception, that list is getting longer where the commission is opening more appeals. In 2016, more than 2,300 appeals were received and 200 were closed. In 2017, 1,700 more appeals were received and fewer than 700 were closed. In 2018, 1,700 were received and 1,400 closed. In 2019, the figures show that up to the end of June, 672 were received and 580 closed. All of the time, the list is getting longer. I appreciate that is the reason we are here. That is the reason we are debating this Bill to allow for an increase in the number of people who can deal with this stuff. There will be three additional temporary appeal commissioners. That is a welcome development. I can certainly put on the record that Fianna Fáil and I will support any measure that helps to further address the backlog and makes the appeals commission even more efficient.
The appointment of a chairperson on a statutory basis is important. It is certainly of concern that the backlog is getting bigger rather than smaller. It is important that we appreciate that some of these appeals are very large. There is one of over €1 billion in play. Clearly, while the State would like that money, and we all would like that money for the use of the State, it is not the State's money until it has been resolved one way or the other. Whether we have it in an escrow account or we have it sitting somewhere, we cannot use it until we know we have the use of it and it has not been refunded.
Much of the debate on this Bill has been probably caught up in the tax appeals. The prospectus regulation part of the Bill has not been referred to as much but it is important to realise that now the definition of a local offer can increase from €5 million to €8 million meaning that some small and medium-sized enterprises making offerings up to €8 million can submit a local offer rather than having to issue a full prospectus. That is welcome in the context of people trying to raise legitimate funds to grow their businesses right across the country.
I do not want to delay the House. We have had problems with the Tax Appeals Commission in the past. There were 25 recommendations published on budget day last year and there has been no update on any of those. The problem has been getting worse. Hopefully, this Bill is part of that. It has been quite slow in coming but, nonetheless, I welcome it.
I thank the Minister of State for being here. I appreciate that the sooner we get this legislation through these Houses the better. Committee and Remaining Stages are being taken on Tuesday next. I thank Deputy O'Donovan for the work he is doing on all of our behalf.