Brexit and an increase in online shopping in the Covid-19 pandemic have seen an “explosion” in Revenue’s activity and the customs duty haul for the State almost double to €458 million so far this year.
The Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told Revenue is dealing with up to 700,000 customs entries a day, and that it expects an a overall 30-fold increase on the 1.8 million entries it used to handle annually prior to Brexit.
Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked Revenue officials about the scale of the increase in the post-Brexit collection of duties on packages.
Responding to their answers, she said the increase in the workload for Revenue was “astonishing”.
Ms Carroll MacNeill also said the fees payable sometimes come as a surprise at the doorstep and added: “if you don’t mind me saying a slightly nasty surprise when people have ordered gifts”.
She remarked: “The Revenue is coming into people’s lives in a day-to-day way in a way that it hadn’t been before.”
Revenue chairman Niall Cody said the amount of customs duty collected up to end of November this year is €458 million – an 85 per cent increase on the €248 million collected in the same period in 2020.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said the sum was “extraordinary”.
Mr Cody told the PAC that Revenue used to handle 1.8 million customs entries per year before Brexit and had anticipated this would go up to about 20 million n the first year.
“The reality this year we’re probably looking at a 30-fold increase,” he said.
Mr Cody said he was recently told there were 350,000 customs entries in one day, at that point the highest number in one day. Mr Cody said this has since risen to 700,000 in one day.
Revenue commissioner Gerry Harrahill said there were a number of factors aside from Brexit that have contributed to this "explosion".
These include an increase in online shopping due to Covid-19 restrictions and also a changing in European Union rules from July that means that items worth less than €22 are now subject to VAT, though not customs duty.
He said the increased activity is not just an Irish phenomenon and is being seen across the EU in the “post-Brexit environment”.
Mr Harrahill said it is a "new reality" and Revenue has done a lot of work last year and this year leading up to Black Friday to bring people's attention to the issues that arise from importing goods from outside the EU – such liability to customs charges and VAT.
Mr Cody earlier told the PAC that Brexit resulted in "a fundamentally changed trading environment between Ireland and Great Britain since 1 January 2021."
He said Revenue's Brexit infrastructure and accommodation costs were over €9.6 million at Dublin Port and Rosslare Europort for 2020, with further expenditure of over €14 million expected in 2021.
He said: “Further changes to the UK government’s import requirements from January next will mean more adjustments.”
Mr Cody told the PAC that Revenue will "continue to work collaboratively with trade and business, both collectively and individually, to ensure trade flows remain as efficient as possible while meeting our Single Market and Customs Union obligations."
He said that since 2017 there has been spending of more than €120 million that is relevant to Brexit, including that on staff, information and communications technology, infrastructure, and engagement with businesses about preparations. He said Britain’s post-Brexit status as a third country has had a “significant impact on the organisation”.