PAC Meeting | July 2, 2015
Revenue Commissioners called and examined
Deputy John Deasy: I have a question which is a follow-on from what Mr. Cody said. I refer to the World Bank grading system as far as ease of paying taxes is concerned. This has come up previously, and it is something I know is taken very seriously by companies located here.
If we are the best in the European Union and the sixth best in the world when it comes to ease of paying taxes, are there any measures we still need to introduce that would increase that number? It has come up, and if one reads surveys of companies that are here, American companies in particular, it is certainly a big issue, more so than some people would think.
Niall Cody [Chairman Revenue Commissioners]: The Deputy is right. We take it very seriously. We talked earlier about proposals that we will make to the Department for changes in systems, but technology is critical. Our Revenue online system is the vehicle through which it is easy to pay and easy to administer, but we are not complacent about it.
We have processes in place. We are introducing shortly an electronic tax clearance system which will be available online, for which one will not have to apply. One will be able to look at it. Every year-----
Deputy John Deasy: Will that reduce time?
Niall Cody: One will be able to see one's tax clearance virtually there and then.
Deputy John Deasy: Right.
Niall Cody: In 2012, we fundamentally reorganised relevant contract tax to an electronic platform, which took over 1 million pieces of paper out of the system. We have a schedule of developments to make it easier to pay. To move up from best in Europe will present particular challenges because a number of the countries ahead of us do not have-----
Deputy John Deasy: I know where Mr. Cody is going with this. It might be impossible to get beyond five or six.
Niall Cody: It is really difficult. Some of it is the Gulf states, and short of abolishing certain taxes-----
Deputy John Deasy: So the World Bank probably should have a different scale for-----
Niall Cody: I think it is comparable. People understand perfectly the ease of paying tax in the European Union. That is the kind of standard. Similarly, a provision that is overlooked in some of the comparisons is the ease of carrying out customs transactions. We are up there on that one, which is really important.
We have spent a lot of money on an electronic manifest system which allows the electronic reporting of the manifest to facilitate the movement of goods. The Chairman talked about speaking with the trade.
We engage heavily with the trade, advisers and business interests on improving the system of doing it. We are quite proud of our record. We were an early mover in electronic filing, and we are constantly looking at enhancing the system.
Deputy John Deasy: The Chairman should stop me if I am repeating what he or anyone else has said, but I wish to ask a question about what members have been dealing with in recent weeks, which is Ansbacher...
The only question I was going to ask was whether the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners has received any information since his last appearance that would lead him to believe that Revenue missed anything in its initial or historical investigations?
Mr. Niall Cody: -----certainly, while I obviously knew we would not be going into it in any detail, in the past week I reviewed the transcript of Josephine Feehily's attendance in December.
In her preparation for that, because obviously she was retiring, I attended the various briefing sessions on that subject and, just as she was satisfied, I am satisfied that we followed through just as we would follow through on any other information we get.
Moreover, as I noted in respect of the HSBC stuff, with regard to the principal officer who has led our investigation of that portfolio, and his predecessor, I certainly would not like to tell him he should not follow through on that.
Were I to do so, he probably would be writing to members himself. It is really important to state that the professionalism of the people who are dealing with this has been lost a little bit in some of the discussions. I note that Ms Feehily did state she had never experienced any interference in doing the job, and I believe her.
Chairman [Deputy John McGuinness]: Yes, but arising from that, some of the questions that are asked here are asked of the Chairman out of a desire to be reassured or to reassure the taxpayer.
Niall Cody: Absolutely.
Chairman: That is an important part of it as well.
Niall Cody: I agree completely.
Deputy John Deasy: Neither Mr. Cody nor his organisation appears before the committee very often, but this is talked about on a constant rolling level both in the media and in here. Once the chairman appears before the committee, it is important to have clarity, a real definite view and a standpoint when it comes to the investigation about which members seemingly are talking constantly.
Niall Cody: Earlier, I outlined the legacy special investigation and the €2.74 billion that we followed through on. All those leads and pieces of paper were examined with the same rigour and have been followed through.
PAC Meeting | March 5, 2015
Clerk to the Committee: Arising from Chairman's request, I contacted the London office [of HSBC] and I got a phone call late yesterday evening when I came back from Belfast to say that the reason the banks' representatives appeared before the UK Public Accounts Committee is that its headquarters is in the UK.
It did not mean any disrespect to this committee but it does not have any information. That is the gist of the information they gave me. The letter they sent says they are not in possession of records with regard to this matter.
Chairman (Deputy John McGuinness): Is this from the Dublin office?
Clerk to the Committee: Yes, and the bank is headquartered in London. That is why the bank attended the Public Accounts Committee in London.
Deputy John Deasy: That is a flimsy excuse to give for not coming in. From what the Chairman said, we can take up the offer to attend. Are they willing to come in?
Chairman: The letter says that they are willing and that they would send representatives but they do not know how helpful their representatives could be. If the individual in London was helpful to the Public Accounts Committee in the UK, surely they can provide information via him that is of interest here.
If it is the wish of members, we can get back to HSBC in Dublin and in the headquarters and suggest they send to the meeting of the PAC someone who has some briefing material.
Deputy John Deasy: We should ask them in and take them up on the offer to come in. Let us not beat around the bush. We can ask them questions correctly. If the representative comes back and says that he does not have the information, we will make our minds up then.
Chairman: They may be separate entities within HSBC, but before getting into that, we should write to Mr. Duffy again and to the individual who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in the UK and ask if someone can be briefed who can assist us with our efforts with the Revenue Commissioners. That would be helpful. A representative should be here.
Chairman: As there is no other business, we will agree our meeting for Thursday, 12 March at which we will have presentations from the Revenue Commissioners and HSBC. I will ask the clerk to report to committee members on the availability of the delegate from HSBC and on what we can expect, so that members are briefed before the meeting.
...I will ask the clerk to ensure members are aware of the response from the HSBC and the extent of the information the delegate will have, so that we are clear in regard to what information can be gleaned through questions.
In regard to the HSE, we should get representatives in as soon as possible. If that is to happen next week, we will sit on Tuesday. The matter is in the public domain and because the HSE caused it to happen, we need an explanation. They will be told we are available to meet them on Tuesday or Wednesday.