Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill, 1959—Money Resolution.

Tuesday, 30 June 1959

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 176 No. 2

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Minister for Finance (Dr. Ryan): Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I move:—

That for the purpose of any Act of the present session to charge and impose certain duties of customs and inland revenue (including excise), to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provisions in connection with finance, it is expedient to authorise as follows:—

(a) to redeem borrowings, and interest thereon, in respect of capital services, there shall be charged annually on the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof a sum of £645,872 in the twenty-nine successive financial [182] years and a sum of £780,192 in the thirty successive financial years commencing in each case with the financial year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960, and

(b) relief from tax, either by repayment or otherwise as the Revenue Commissioners consider proper, shall be given in relation to the period between the passing of the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956 (No. 47 of 1956), and the passing of the said Act of the present session, where such relief is appropriate on account of any direction given by the Revenue Commissioners pursuant to the said Act of the present session for the purpose of adjustment of the amounts receivable from the sale of goods exported and amounts receivable from the sale of goods not exported.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I want to raise a few points on the Money Resolution. First of all, I understand that the copy in the short size—in the ordinary standard size of the Acts—of the Finance Act, 1958, is not yet available. It seems extraordinary to me that that is so and I presume it arises from translation reasons. That we are considering today the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, 1959, and that the short printed version of the Finance Act, 1958, cannot be purchased, is, to say the least of it, ridiculous. I am aware, of course, that copies of the Finance Act, 1958, are available in what I may call the long white foolscap size but people who have to work on the Finance Bills day in and day out must always bind them for their own use. It is most inconvenient if they have to bind short Acts together with long Acts and I would ask the Minister, therefore, to ensure that in this coming year, and in the future, when there will be a substantial delay in relation to the issue of the Act in the ordinary form, the Acts will be issued in English only in that short form so as to facilitate those who have to work on these enactments.

Clearly, judging by the experience of 1958, it will be a very long time [183] now before we can get this Bill translated, and if during that lengthy interval, the position is that nobody can get a copy of the Bill in the same size for binding, it will materially impede the work and the more the work is impeded, the more it will be thrown back on the Revenue Commissioners.

Secondly, I want to suggest to the Minister that it is undesirable in the case of a long Bill like this which will take considerable time to annotate and for a memorandum to be made, that the officers of the Revenue Commissioners should not be supplied with a copy of the Bill immediately it is enacted. I know that last year there was very great difficulty—and I appreciate the difficulty—in making a memorandum on the impact of the Finance Act, 1958. In consequence of that, my information, from certain accountants and others who have business with inspectors of taxes, is that no inspector of taxes had, up to last November, any copy of the Finance Act, 1958, and that, in fact, in November, accountants were discussing with inspectors of taxes the provisions of the Finance Act, 1958, in so far as it affected their clients, and that they were told by the inspectors of taxes concerned: “That may or may not be so; we cannot tell you because we have not yet got a copy of the Bill as finally enacted.”

I know the reason that happened last year was that the Revenue Commissioners decided, and properly decided, that a memorandum for the use of the Service on the Finance Act, 1958, was utterly essential. I think they will decide the same thing in respect of this long Bill. If that is so, then I would urge that regardless of the preparation of that memorandum, they should see that copies of the Bill are circulated to their principal officers, such as inspectors of taxes, at the earliest possible opportunity, and that a copy of the memorandum should be circulated later so that no inspector of taxes will be in the position on being asked whether he has a copy of the Act to discuss with his opposite number, of having to reply that he has not.

I want also to take advantage of this opportunity on the Money Resolution [184] of raising a matter which I raised on the Second Stage of this Bill in relation to the question of double residence. So far as I am concerned, if the Minister considers it would be simpler if I raised it on any other section, I am entirely in his hands, and it is completely a matter for him. When we were speaking here on the Second Stage, I informed the Minister that it had been suggested to me by those who deal with this matter day in and day out, that the present arrangement whereby a person is deemed to be a resident here if he maintains a residence in this country and spends only one night in it, is having the effect of preventing people from bringing in capital moneys for the development of stud farms and similar activities.

The Minister, in his reply at columns 864 and 865 of the Official Report, suggested that what these people were really anxious to do was to avoid paying any tax at all. That is not my information. I suppose everybody would be anxious to avoid paying tax if he could. That is nothing new. It is not, however, an anxiety to avoid paying tax that inspires these people. That is not their concern, and it is my concern here to ensure that there is as great an inflow of capital for proper development of assets here as can be arranged. I can see the circumstances in which quite definitely the provision of this “one night rule”, as I call it, would deter people from bringing in capital. I do not quite follow the Minister's suggestion that the only gainer in respect of such an extension—or, to be strictly accurate, in respect of such a limitation as the “one night rule”— would be the British Exchequer. I would be grateful to him for some enlightenment on that point.

I raised with the Minister on the Second Stage the position that arises for residents here who are also members of Lloyds underwriting syndicates. I got a most helpful memorandum transmitted to me by the Minister, a memorandum which sets out the position very fairly and very clearly. It is admitted in that memorandum that there are cases in which there is double taxation at the moment. That admission in itself makes it desirable [185] that some method should be evolved of remedying the situation. The cure the Minister has suggested is that the parties concerned should withdraw altogether from the special reserve fund. I agree that would be a simple solution, but I do not think it meets the situation at all. If they do that and continue to reside here, I can see circumstances in which in one year they will be liable for very heavy surtax and in the following year, even though they suffered substantially lower profits, or even losses, they will not get the surtax arrangements evened out.

It is because of that situation that the arrangement was originally introduced in the British Finance Act of 1949 whereby higher profits in one year and lower profits in another year would be evened out by the creation of this special reserve fund. I think it is fair to say that the situation was met by treating underwriters in the same manner as they would have been treated if they were a directorcontrolled company. The whole purpose of Lloyds is to ensure that there will not be a limited liability, as is provided in the company, and accordingly the provisions applicable to a company are not applicable to an underwriter unless there is a special arrangement.

I agree entirely with the memorandum submitted to me by the Minister that the relief under the double taxation agreement would be very complicated. I also agree with him that, so far as I can ascertain, there are not very many persons concerned. The simple solution suggested, however, of the persons withdrawing is not an adequate solution. There is power, of course, for the Revenue Commissioners to make an extra statutory concession. Having regard to the very small numbers in this particular class and the desirability of their being fairly treated, I think the extra statutory concession is probably the best method of dealing with the matter. I was trying to draft something that would meet what I have in mind. I thought of bringing it in as an amendment so that the Minister would have it in writing before him. However, [186] since it is only an extra statutory concession, I do not think it is proper to put it in as an amendment to the Finance Bill.

What I had in mind was a provision something like this: —

“Where, through membership of Lloyds Special Reserve Fund, an underwriter in Ireland suffers double taxation and where, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, relief should be granted, the amount of that relief shall be the total amount of United Kingdom income-tax, sur-tax and profits tax, or other tax on income, or the total amount of the Irish income-tax, surtax, and profits tax, or other tax on income, suffered by the Irish resident on the doubly taxed income, whichever is the lesser.”

The amount from the revenue point of view could not be very large. The amount from the point of view of individual hardship would undoubtedly be very large.

I press upon the Minister that he should ensure that these people are not doubly taxed either by arranging an extra statutory concession along the lines I have suggested as a simple method of dealing with the situation or, in the alternative, that he should take the matter up under the double tax agreement. I admit the latter course would be a rather complicated one. That is why I have suggested the other. When the Minister and his advisers come to read the phraseology of the provision I have suggested they will see I have made it quite clear, as it is imperative it should be made clear, that in the extra statutory concession the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners is the ruling factor. In other words, there is no question of right. I think that proposal would assist capital development here.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  First of all, I was not aware of the fact that the ordinary form of the Act of 1958 has not yet issued. To what the delay is due, I am not quite sure, but I shall certainly look into the matter immediately to see if something better cannot be done in that respect this year as against last year. I quite appreciate the inconvenience [187] to those using these Acts to have them issued in different sizes.

With regard to the inspectors, I believe the inspectors did get copies of the Green Print but they did not get the final print until some time in November. It was accompanied by notes from the Revenue Commissioners and, when the Deputy sees the size of the document, he will understand why it took some time to prepare it.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I understand the reason.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Again, we shall see if we can get something better this year.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  My information is that it was the Committee Stage of the Bill that they got.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  With regard to double residence, I am sorry if I gave a wrong impression. I did not want to give the impression to the Dáil, when I was speaking on this matter, that these people were trying to avoid income tax. I may have concluded by saying that everybody, of course, tries to avoid income tax. It is a natural thing. But I did not say that these people try to avoid it more than anybody else. I did say that the only gainer would be the British Exchequer which, of course, would be true in the case of a British national, as the Deputy, I am sure, realises. If we can claim some part of the income tax from a British national, we have it, but, if we do not claim, the British Exchequer gets all the income tax he pays. If we do not claim it when it is due to us, we lose that bit of income tax and the British get it instead. That is the only difference there is. That is why I made the remark that the only gainer would be the British Exchequer.

With regard to the Lloyds' underwriting business, that appeared to me to be a rather difficult matter. I am glad the Deputy appreciated the memorandum which was passed to me by the Revenue Commissioners and which I passed on to him. I thought it rather difficult to read but I was not, I suppose, as interested in it as the Deputy was and, therefore, he may have understood it very quickly and got a better grip of it, but I think the [188] kernel of the thing there is that it is the impact of British income tax law that is really the big trouble. I know that those who were advising these people did approach the British income tax authorities and we had hoped that they might get some result from that and we were waiting to see if they would. Therefore, we had not given very much thought to what we might do to meet this situation because we thought it might be met from the other side. We have still some hope that it will be met in that way. All I can say about it is that I shall certainly study the suggestions made by the Deputy now when I see them in print and see if anything can be done on these lines.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution reported and agreed to.

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