Revenue accuses accountancy body of being ‘grossly irresponsible’

ACCA issued a series of public comments which Revenue deemed ‘highly objectionable’

The ACCA had alleged that Revenue unlawfully issued national tax adviser identification numbers. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The ACCA had alleged that Revenue unlawfully issued national tax adviser identification numbers. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Revenue has accused a professional accountancy body of being “grossly irresponsible” and making up false facts in some of its public representations.

The State’s tax collector wrote to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) toward the end of March complaining about a press release issued earlier in the month in addition to two other public representations.

The ACCA had alleged that Revenue unlawfully issued national tax adviser identification numbers, or TAIN numbers, meaning that unqualified people were providing accounting, tax and customs advice to businesses.

“In the ordinary course this would be highly objectionable but in the current context where Revenue is trying to encourage businesses to prepare for Brexit this is grossly irresponsible, especially for a body such as the ACCA which itself should be preparing business for Brexit,” Revenue assistant secretary Brian Boyle wrote in correspondence seen by The Irish Times.

Issues

He said that the ACCA is “aware” that Revenue has no legal or regulatory role in respect of the accounting profession of those providing advice as tax agents.

Mr Boyle added that the ACCA, as a member of the Tax Administration Liaison Committee (TALC), could have raised any issues through that forum.

“We have no difficulty with the ACCA or any other body making representation for legislative changes or proposing changes in administrative practices, however, we expect, especially from our partners in the TALC process, those proposals to be made in a professional manner and on an accurate basis.

“We certainly will not accept allegations of illegality,” Mr Boyle added.

In his letter, he also complained about two other public representations – one concerning VAT registrations and the other regarding PAYE modernisation – noting that the press release relating to TAIN “has not been a one off” and that previous comments “were also inaccurate”.

In respect of PAYE modernisation, the accountancy body suggested that up to 120,000 employees could be subject to emergency tax. Mr Boyle wrote that, in this case, “the ACCA made up a false fact”.

In fact, about 28,500 employees received less than half their gross pay in the first month of the year because of changes to Revenue’s reporting systems. However, the ACCA said that its figure was quoted by a Revenue representative and was part of their drive to raise the issue “in the public interest”.

“The ACCA made no attempt to engage with Revenue on the issue or establish accurate numbers before releasing its statement in January 2019,” Mr Boyle wrote in his letter.

In its response dated April 3rd, the ACCA said its comments weren’t meant as a direct criticism of Revenue.

Row back

“We do not wish to admonish the work of Revenue and will continue to raise tax administrations issues through [the] Tax Administration Liaison Committee before proceeding to the press.

“We will also commit to raising these issues directly with Revenue in advance of any future press release being issued that relate to Revenue business or regulation.”

However, it didn’t row back on its comments, instead saying that its concern in relation to the TAIN system was that “illegitimate businesses will exploit the gap”.

Asked to comment on the letter, Revenue again reiterated previous comments that it has no legal or regulatory role in respect of TAIN.

ACCA told The Irish Times that it “has and will always work in the public interest on fiscal and economic issues that directly impact communities”.

“Our information and statistics are based on the robust insights and research of our 11,000 Irish members who are supporting and advising individuals, businesses and organisations throughout Ireland,” it said.