Revenue may withhold tax refunds to businesses in bid to clear €1.9bn Covid debt pile

Seen & Heard: Bryan Meehan eyes up the Park Hotel, Irish appetite for posh watches grows, and Europe remains prone to energy price shocks

Revenue may withhold tax refunds to businesses from next May as it bids to cut the €1.9 billion debt pile leftover from Covid, according to the Sunday Times.

The newspaper reports that tax officials plan to use a digital system to deduct the smaller businesses’ Covid debts from any refunds due to them.

“If any of those businesses are entitled to VAT repayments or whatever, it will be offset. We’ll resolve an awful lot of small cases with that,” Joe Howley, the Revenue’s collector general, tells The Sunday Times.

About 29,000 with outstanding “warehoused” debts of less than €1,000 will be affected, the newspaper calculates.


An appetite for luxury

Irish people have increasing time for luxury watches, Tag Heuer’s European chief, Rob Driver, tells the Business Post.

Driver, the Swiss watchmaker’s Europe managing director, says that the Republic has always been a strong market for the company, despite ups and downs.

“Not only is Tag Heuer selling more watches than ever in the Irish market, but the average selling price has grown considerably. So that’s a pretty good bellwether of what’s going on in the Irish economy,” he says.

Meehan eyes Park Hotel

Businessman Bryan Meehan is weighing an investment in Joe and Francis Brennan’s Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry, says the Sunday Times.

Meehan and Ali Hewson, wife of U2 frontman Bono, sold their Nude Skincare line to luxury goods group LVHM, while the businessman recently offloaded his California-based Blue Bottle coffee chain to chocolate maker Nestlé for €580 million.

The newspaper maintains that a “deal has been reached to buy out Fergal Naughton, son of the Glen Dimplex founder, Martin Naughton”, who invested in the Kerry hotel in 2017. “The deal is also amenable to the Brennans,” the Sunday Times reports.

Energy prices remain volatile

Europe is more vulnerable than ever to energy price shocks, despite beginning this winter with record stocks of natural gas, warns the Observer.

Liquid natural gas (LNG) shipments, mainly from the US, are compensating for Russian supplies, cut off since 2022 as a consequence of Ukraine war.

However, news of a strike at an Australian gas plant last month triggered a 40 per cent surge in European prices, highlighting the continent’s exposure to multiple risks.

“It is rare for Australia to supply gas to Europe, but experts warned that the shock of less gas in the global market could still reverberate in the northern hemisphere,” says The Observer.

Women leave senior roles

Forget the ‘great resignation’ – now it’s the turn of the ‘great break-up’.Women in senior roles are “breaking up” with companies that fail to provide them with the flexibility to juggle work and childcare and are seeking employers that offer them greater work-life balance, The Sunday Independent reports