Wednesday, 22 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
64. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the work of the RCT monitoring group; the number of audits that have been carried out to date in 2006 on construction companies; the number of site visits conducted by the Revenue Commissioners Office in 2006; the yield from these audits; the percentage of tax due from these audits that is to be collected; the number of contractors that have been re-classified as employees as a result of these audits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39225/06]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen): I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Relevant Contract Tax (RCT) Steering Group has made significant progress to date in 2006. As I have previously advised the House, the Revenue Commissioners have made a commitment to assigning 25% of its audit and compliance resources to the construction sector in 2006. In addition to this they launched a national construction project to be monitored by a central steering committee. Moreover substantial progress was made in relation to legislative changes, IT upgrades and administrative improvements.
The Revenue Commissioners continue to increase its use of Information Technology to identify areas of risk in the construction sector. This is feeding into the audit, site visit and assurance check programmes e.g. information now captured on the Revenue Commissioners’ systems is giving a good real time overview of RCT operations at principal or subcontractor level. This greatly enhances the ability to identify, target and focus in on areas/cases that may pose a risk.
Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen): The scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was reviewed by Indecon Economic Consultants as part of the overall review of property tax incentives in 2005. Indecon consulted widely in the course of their review, including consultations with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. Their report was published on 6 February 2006 and is available on the Department of Finance’s website. The review recommended that this scheme should continue as there was a need for on-going investment in private hospitals. The consultants observed that the construction of private hospitals could free beds in public hospitals used by private patients. It should also be noted that the consultants observed that the Government’s plan for private hospitals in the grounds of public hospitals is designed to be a cost effective way of expanding supply and if properly managed will increase supply and competition.
In all of the circumstances, I have no plans at this time to terminate the scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals. Private health care is a long established feature of the system of health care provision in Ireland and acts as a strong complement to the publicly funded system. Private health care provision spans from general practitioner services through private beds in public hospitals and private hospitals to private nursing homes. The Government is committed to exploring fully the scope for the private sector to provide additional capacity in the health system. The key objective is to provide the required extra capacity, whether this is in the public or private sector. A number of Government policies-initiatives support the co-existence of public and private health care such as: the designation of private and semi-private beds in public hospitals; income tax relief on private health insurance premiums; income tax relief on medical-dental expenses; the National Treatment Purchase Fund sources capacity in private hospitals for public patients; and the policy direction of the Minister for Health and Children to the Health Service Executive to promote the co-location of private hospitals on public sites thereby freeing up beds for public patients.
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