Short trip abroad cost me a non-contributory pension

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

You will not be allowed to go back and pay now PRSI stamps that were missed for whatever reason 12 years ago, not least as you have since retired. Photograph: iStock

You will not be allowed to go back and pay now PRSI stamps that were missed for whatever reason 12 years ago, not least as you have since retired. Photograph: iStock

 

I worked for around six months in 2006 as an interpreter and earned around €8,500. They were just paying us without deducting any taxes, though we provided the company with PRSI number. My question is, can I still ask to pay taxes for that period, for which I still retain the payslips? And would that also allow me to get PRSI contributions for that period as I need three weeks’ contributions to be eligible for state contributory pension which needs 520 credits. I have only 517.

My non-contributory application was refused after waiting more than six months because I travelled once for four weeks for dental treatment and once for 10 days of Christmas holidays to see my relations in Germany. I did not appeal the decision because I was sick of waiting six months which came to nothing and I came to the conclusion that, once the accumulating amount becomes too much, they will find an excuse to refuse my application.

M.A., email

As a general rule, not only can you pay taxes owing but unpaid for a previous year, you have a responsibility to do so. Revenue will normally only go back four years in search of back taxes, but they have the right to go beyond that, especially if they suspect the failure to pay tax due is down to fraud or neglect, rather than simple carelessness.

In this case, however, I wouldn’t worry. Given your circumstances, it sounds as if this is more confusion than fraud. And if the €8,500 was all you earned that year, no tax would be due anyway.

Back in 2006, you were entitled to a personal tax credit of €1,630 and a PAYE tax credit of €1,490. That’s a total of €3,120 and means that you would not have been liable to income tax on annual income of less than €15,600.

But tax is only incidental here: what you are really interested in is the PRSI stamps. And, on this, I am afraid the news is less encouraging. You will not be allowed to go back and pay now PRSI stamps that were missed for whatever reason 12 years ago, not least as you have since retired.

The situation would be different if the stamps had been paid by you but did not show up on your social insurance record – in which case, you could ask for a check on the record by a welfare inspector.

So, in sum, I think the door has closed on the prospects for even a partial contributory state pension.

Absences

However, I do think you should pursue an appeal on the non-contributory pension. You do need to be resident in Ireland to claim a non-contributory state pension but, in your case, the absences were brief and for specific purposes which should not negate your Irish residence.

These decisions can seem harsh and I have no doubt that there are some over-zealous assessments made on residence, but the non-contributory pension is designed as a subsistence payment to avoid poverty for people resident in the State. Where a reasonable case on residence is made, social welfare inspectors will be fairly even-handed. Perhaps the absences from Ireland at the time of your original application were simply a case of unfortunate timing, which created a wrong impression. Clearly, if the welfare suspected that you actually intended to live more or less full-time with family in Germany you would not qualify.

I think you should now appeal your case, provide as much detail in support of your application as you can, and trust the system to provide a fair outcome. You currently have no state pension; this might provide you with one. You have nothing to lose.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice

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