The Revenue Commissioners is anticipating a deluge of customs paperwork from traders after Brexit as it accelerates the hiring of staff to prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
In testimony before an Oireachtas committee on Thursday, Revenue chairman Niall Cody will estimate that the number of import and export declaration forms that traders will have to file because of the UK leaving the EU could surge from almost 1.7 million last year to as much as 20 million, a 12-fold increase.
In his opening statement to the committee, the country’s most senior tax official says the number of companies that will have to deal with customs after Brexit could surge from 17,000 to as much as 100,000 because they are dealing with the UK as a non-EU country, outside the customs union.
Some 84,000 businesses traded with the UK in 2017, including about 45,000 on a regular basis, which currently do not have to engage with customs, he says.
Some 70,000 were small and mid-sized companies.
Mr Cody will rule out setting up Border posts for customs checks on goods crossing into the State after the UK’s departure from the EU on March 29th, in line with the Government’s plan to avoid a hard border.
"Revenue is not planning for customs posts," Mr Cody says in his opening statement, seen by The Irish Times.
His appearance comes two days after European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that it was "pretty obvious" that no deal would lead to a hard border.
Downing Street said UK government officials “stand ready” to start direct talks with Dublin as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier conceded there would be checks on goods coming into the State under no deal.
The EU will “do everything possible to enforce them unobtrusively”, Mr Barnier told a Luxembourg newspaper, but added that it would “not be possible with everything”.
Britain's prime minister Theresa May's official spokesman said the UK government "will do everything we can" to prevent a hard border and "would look to have discussions with the Irish Government about steps that we could take".
The Government, however, again ruled out the possibility of direct talks with London before or after a no-deal exit.
It said the best way to avoid a hard border is through the Withdrawal Agreement, the result of two years of detailed negotiations. In the event of a no deal scenario further detailed discussions may be required, but that would take place through the medium of the European Union and the Task Force, it said.
Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said Ireland’s anxiety about what a no-deal Brexit would mean for the Border showed a greater willingness to compromise and to reopen the divorce deal rejected by Westminster.
Mr Cody will tell the Oireachtas finance committee on Thursday that in the event of a no deal, the Revenue would help the Government with “whatever technical expertise and assistance may be required” in “intensive” discussions it was planning with the Commission and other member states to avoid a hard border.
The Revenue’s overarching approach to achieve this would be to conduct customs checks “to the greatest extent possible” away from the “point of importation” at the State’s frontiers with the UK.
At just 64 days until Brexit, Revenue is now planning to have more than 400 additional staff in place by the end of March, almost 50 per cent more than it had planned by that date in November.
Mr Cody says the Revenue will have its full 600-strong complement of additional staff to be hired to deal with Brexit in place by the end of this year, 12 months earlier than planned.
In addition, it is reassigning existing staff and preparing for “any necessary further redeployments on a temporary basis”, Mr Cody states.
The Revenue intends to be “strongly focused” on the efficient and timely movement of goods while complying with customs controls after Brexit, Mr Cody says in his opening statement.
“Revenue will be as ready as we can possibly be, to deal with the outcome of unfolding political and policy developments,” he states.