Revenue officials face Oireachtas questions on pensions


REVENUE COMMISSIONERS chairwoman Josephine Feehily and officials from the Department of Social Protection will face questions from an Oireachtas committee today on the controversy over tax liabilities on pensions for older people.

Some 150,000 pensioners received letters last week notifying them of a potential tax liability, after Revenue received detailed information from the Department of Social Protection about pension payments.

About 115,000 of them, the majority of whom are on smaller occupational pensions, will have some liability for tax.

It has also emerged that about 15,000 pensioners will have some tax deducted even though their total incomes fall below the threshold for paying tax, pending the issuing of new tax certificates.

Revenue has been criticised for its handling of the issue by advocacy bodies for older people.

Ms Feehily will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform at 2pm.

Committee chairman Alex White TD of Labour said no one would argue with the necessity of tax compliance on the part of all citizens.

“However, many pensioners are unsure of where they stand on their tax liability and need reassurance,” he said.

Mr White said the committee would be seeking clarity on the matter and would look at how the situation was handled.

“We will question Revenue on its communications strategy, how it may be reviewed, and will see what lessons may be learned for the future.”

The 15,000 pensioners who have had tax taken from them even though they are not liable for it were told yesterday this will be corrected “as quickly as possible”.

Pensions Ombudsman Paul Kenny met the Revenue Commissioners to review the situation regarding tax liabilities for those older people in receipt of an occupational pension as well as a State pension. The meeting was held at the request of Revenue, Mr Kenny said.

The tax authority earlier confirmed it had written to 15,000 people to inform them they may find tax being deducted even though their total income is likely to fall below the threshold for payment of tax.

Describing yesterday’s meeting as productive and positive, Mr Kenny said he was happy that things were being “brought under control” and that Revenue would take the necessary steps to correct the situation as quickly as possible.

“That small group of people who may have had tax deducted, for which they are not liable, will receive refunds quite quickly, as work on the exemption certificates has already started.”

Mr Kenny said arrangements for Revenue to be provided with regular feeds of information from the Department of Social Protection were under way.

This would ensure changes to people’s benefits would be brought to Revenue’s attention immediately and tax credits adjusted accordingly, without the need for the taxpayer to notify Revenue individually.

The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament said there had been a “full and frank exchange” of views when representatives met two Revenue officials yesterday.

It said Revenue had not provided the level of detail it had hoped to receive and they hoped there would be more information available at today’s Oireachtas committee meeting.

Revenue indicated the volume of calls it was receiving in relation to the pensions issue was still “very high”, although it could not provide exact figures. Some 20,000 calls were handled last Friday and Saturday.