Revenue Commissioners become givers not takers

Task is to get cash circulating in economy and minimise likely layoffs

The Revenue: now shooting money out first and asking questions later. Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

The Revenue: now shooting money out first and asking questions later. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Revenue Commissioners are used to collecting money, with the sums calculated, if not down to last cent, certainly down to the last euro. That is how tax authorities operate. But in this time of crisis, the Revenue is being forced into action as a distributor of cash, rather than a collector, and by necessity a lot of this is having to be organised on the hoof.

Minister for Finance and Public Spending Paschal Donohoe and his officials have come up with a detailed plan to support people’s incomes through the next three months.

The focus is on those earning €38,000 or less – representing vulnerable workers in the worst-affected sectors. If their employer keeps them on the books, they will receive a subsidy equal to 70 per cent of take-home pay. It gets a bit more complicated for those earning between €38,000 and €76,000, where earnings are expected to be subsidised on a sliding scale up to a maximum of €350 a week, with a lesser support from the State as earnings rise towards the top of the band.

Repayment rush

But this detail will take time to work out, even after the legislation is voted through. In the meantime – for a few weeks up to mid-April – the Revenue looks set to pay €410 a week to employers to subsidise the wages of all qualifying employees. This means more will be paid in many cases than will apply when the scheme comes into full operation – so some kind of reconciliation is likely in time with the excess repaid, but we presume the Revenue will be in no rush to collect this.

The immediate goal is to get cash out there quickly to support companies and their employees and, crucially, stop companies making people redundant if this can be avoided.

The Revenue, contrary to its nature, is shooting money out first and asking questions later. As a highly professional operation, it is best-placed to do this and the update of the PAYE system in recent years is now proving its worth, in an unexpected way, by giving a pathway for this to happen. It is vital work if the economy is to be able to restart in any kind of shape once the worst of this has passed.

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