Address by Chairman Niall Cody
Dublin Castle 21 February 2023
Good afternoon Minister, Distinguished Guests and two very important groups firstly, my serving colleagues who are here representing the 7,000 people who work in Revenue and then my retired colleagues, including my retired Board colleagues, who are representing the 7,000 former colleagues throughout the country.
On behalf of Gerry, Ruth and myself you are very welcome to Dublin Castle to mark the centenary of the establishment of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners on the 21 February 1923.
I thought I’d do a quick run through the highlights of the last 100 years but on reflection I thought you could do that yourself at the exhibition.
Our mission is to serve the community by fairly and efficiently collecting taxes and duties and implementing Customs controls. What I’ve always found interesting about our mission statement is the intro of ‘to serve the community’. This goes to the heart of what we do - we collect the resources to help run the State.
The first Annual Report published in 1924 shows Exchequer receipts collected by Revenue were just under £25 million. It is also interesting to look at the breakdown of that first set of accounts and the fact that Customs and Excise receipts accounted for 75% of the total amount collected. This shows the challenges faced in establishing the State following the War of Independence and the Civil War.
2022 was also a landmark year for Revenue and it is fitting that as we celebrate our centenary, we acknowledge that last year’s tax collection exceeded €100 billion for the first time.
What we do in Revenue matters and how we do it really matters. As an organisation we interact with people in many situations, some extremely stressful and challenging and how we handle these interactions is really important.
Our strategy is built on the concept of voluntary compliance. Our aim, as much as possible, is to make it as easy as possible to comply and as difficult as possible to evade.
However, the economy is increasingly complex, tax policy is not only about raising revenue but is often aimed at changing behaviour. All of this adds layers of complexity and we seek to support businesses in dealing with this complexity.
Tax practitioners, agents, software developers, business representatives play a key role in supporting this culture of compliance and you are very welcome here today.
Our second pillar is tackling non-compliance. We recognise that non-compliance can range across a wide spectrum and we seek to tackle it appropriately. Non-compliance not only deprives the State of resources but erodes confidence in the system, and undermines compliant businesses.
Throughout the years since we were established, it is also important to acknowledge that Revenue has not got it right all the time. However, whenever things have not gone according to plan, we have always tried to fix the problem. As Jonathan Swift said – “you should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday”.
Technology is key to everything we do, and it is hard to imagine that it is 60 years since Revenue acquired its first computer. Since then, we have deployed new technologies to streamline our operations, reduce costs and improve our performance. But technology is not just internal looking, it is far more about making it easier for taxpayers to meet their obligations. It was also the platform that allowed us to deploy those business supports so quickly over the last three years.
There is a very interesting panel in the exhibition showing Revenue’s Technology Journey and it is one that everyone in the country should be proud of and it has resulted in Ireland being the easiest country in the EU to meet your tax obligations and the fourth in the world according to the World Bank/PWC study. I’m really looking forward to this panel being updated for our 110th celebration because of the next ten years of continued transformational change.
The UK exit from the EU allied to the exponential growth in ecommerce has had major implications for the level of Customs transactions that we now deal with. It is not just the growth in transactions it is the nature of the trade. As a small open economy trade facilitation and our role in driving the Customs agenda at EU and World Customs Organisation level is hugely influenced by our experience as an integrated tax and customs organisation. We are also very proud of our role in protecting society, in association with our national and international partners, many of whom are also represented here today, by preventing smuggling and tackling organised crime.
On the international front we support policy developments at EU, OECD and the WCO and we are also very active at international level with EU, OECD, WCO, IOTA and UN in relation to tax and customs administration. We seek to ensure that agreements are informed by practical implementation considerations, we try to support developing administrations and share best practice. In fact, we unashamedly take any administration’s good ideas and try and implement them better.
Of course, Revenue does not and never has worked alone and we are indebted to the support of others in helping us achieve our goals. As I said earlier many of you are here as representatives of organisations, agencies and stakeholders that we engage with on a regular basis and I thank you for that.
Our relationship with the Department of Finance is critically important. In particular, our role in assisting and collaborating with the Department of Finance on tax policy and legislation has contributed significantly to the evolving economic climate in which we operate. Minister, on behalf of the current Board and all the Commissioners present today, we are extremely grateful to the support that you and previous Ministers of Finance have given to Revenue over the years.
The focus of centenaries is normally to celebrate the past and rightly so but on occasions like this it is important that we also look to the future. We are at a pivotal moment in Revenue’s history. There are many challenges that will require agility and resilience to ensure that we continue to serve the Community as efficiently and effectively as we have in the past.
New ways of working, digital transformation and other developments will require Revenue to continue to evolve. The international tax agenda may be reaching a critical decision time, but already developments in the nature of work that have been accelerated by the pandemic provides us with new challenges. EU Customs and VAT reform proposals will bring a renewed focus on supply chain management and real-time reporting. Climate change will bring an increased focus on tax and customs to change behaviours. I think this decade will see accelerating transformational change in tax and customs administration as we continue the move to real-time reporting and the integration of tax and customs into business processes.
As I stand here today, I feel very confident about the future. I know we will embrace the opportunities. We will continue to challenge ourselves to continue to serve the community. Every day I see examples of this attitude and I know that we will always be able to rely on the commitment, determination and professionalism of the people working in Revenue to achieve our goals.
Today is the start of a year in which we hope to mark our centenary across our national office network to provide opportunities for our colleagues both serving and retired to catch up with each other.
I would encourage you to spend some time browsing through the exhibition as it is a wonderful snapshot of our history. You will see a focus on our staff in the exhibition and throughout this event, as the success of any organisation is entirely dependent on the dedication, expertise and integrity of the people who work in it. Throughout our existence, Revenue staff have consistently demonstrated these principles. On a day like today, it is also important that we remember all our former colleagues who are no longer with us and who served Revenue and the State with distinction.
Deirdre will thank everybody in her closing remarks, but I want, on behalf of the Board, to thank everybody involved in today’s events, many of whom went way beyond exceptional. Deirdre will fail to mention herself so I just want to thank you for all you’ve done in preparation for today.