Address by Minister for Finance Michael McGrath TD
100th Anniversary of the establishment of the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin Castle 21 February 2023
I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of Revenue. I would like to thank Chairman Niall Cody, and his fellow commissioners Gerry Harrahill and Ruth Kennedy for the invitation to speak at today’s event and to thank them for their ongoing stewardship of the organisation.
One hundred year commemorations of events related to the foundation of our State are coming round more and more often and it is particularly appropriate that the centenary of Revenue should be recognised when it has such an important role in the foundation and ongoing running of the State. It is particularly fitting that this event takes place in Dublin Castle given its significance to both the history of the Irish State and Revenue itself. It is of course also the home to the Revenue Museum which provides a unique window on the many and varied activities of Revenue through its history including the period before Independence.
So much has changed in one hundred years. In the early years after the foundation of the State, the main sources of tax revenue were from Customs taxes, excise duties and income tax. A century later, the State is now mostly reliant on Income Tax, VAT, and Corporation Tax. 2022 was a record year for Revenue, collecting over €100 billion in taxes and other levies for the first time in the history of the State. We should never forget this is what provides the resources to fund the public services on which we all rely.
International Tax agenda
Over the century the State has evolved into the dynamic open economy that we enjoy today and that has brought many changes to the focus of Revenue’s day-to-day work. The accession to European Union has been central to those developments and the international tax agenda now takes up considerable Revenue resources and Revenue is a respected and important voice for Ireland in various forums.
It is now well over a year since Ireland joined with 136 other jurisdictions in reaching an agreement on a two-pillared solution to address the tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the global economy. The decision of the Government to join the global agreement was not taken lightly but I am convinced it was the correct one.
This year will be a pivotal year for the technical finalisation and implementation of the agreement, which will bring with it a unique opportunity to reframe the international taxation architecture that has largely remained in place for almost a century. Revenue will be a key player in the successful implementation in Ireland of the outcome which eventually emerges.
Expertise of Revenue Staff
The Commissioners and Revenue colleagues who serve the organisation today follow in the proud tradition of staff, working as they do in the interests of the State and its citizens in a manner that is both efficient and fair.
I know we are joined today by many former Revenue colleagues. The high regard in which the Revenue is held is in no small part due to your work down through the years and you can be rightly proud of your role in the success that has been the Irish State since its foundation.
I also want to pay tribute to the trade union representatives of Revenue staff, both in FORSA and the AHCPS who have advocated for the rights of their members over many decades.
The flexibility, resilience and professionalism of Revenue staff is central to the organisations achievements down through the years. The capability and hard work of colleagues along with the agile structures of the organisation and continued innovation in technology, enable you to carry out your role effectively. As Minister for Finance, this is something that is a source of considerable pride and reassurance for me.
Investment in technology
In fact as a State body, Revenue has been to the forefront in optimising the use of technology to enhance the customer experience. This approach has enabled the development of progressive and innovative business solutions that help drive efficiency and quality.
An excellent example of how this has benefitted the customer is the development of myaccount which offers a single access point to Revenue’s secure online services. It provides a quick convenient way for individuals to access their tax records and manage their tax obligations, fully accessible on all mobile and smart devices. It is light years away from the paper based returns many of us would have been familiar with.
The development of the Real Time Credit facility through MyAccount was another landmark in developing a customer focused tax system. The facility is available in respect of Health Expenses, Nursing Home Expenses and Remote Working Relief and went live just yesterday for the new Rent Tax Credit which will be of considerable assistance to many households.
I want to pay particular thanks to Revenue for their response to the Brexit challenge. Since 1 January 2021 our trade relationship with Great Britain has been completely re-set by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. All goods arriving from or departing to GB are now subject to Customs formalities. These are huge changes to the arrangements which previously prevailed and have necessitated a significant recruitment and redeployment of Revenue staff.
In the period from 2017 to 2019, Revenue assigned some 600 additional staff to Customs roles, deployed across a range of functions. By its nature a considerable amount of this work is unseen by the general public but is essential to the continuing functioning of the economy and cross channel trade. That much of this work took place during the period of an unprecedented pandemic further underlines the achievement of Revenue in taking on the Brexit challenge.
Just short of three years ago, Covid hit and the country went in to an unprecedented lockdown. Revenue again rose to the task and played a central role in the national response to the crisis. In fact, Revenue completely reversed their normal function almost overnight from collecting money to paying money out to support our economy.
By the end of the TWSS, €2.8 billion had been paid out to 67,000 employers in respect of almost 700,000 employees. The EWSS went on to provide support of almost €8 billion to over 50,000 employers in respect of almost three quarters of a million employees. These totals show the massive supports provided to keep businesses afloat and it is right that Revenue’s efforts in this are acknowledged.
Revenue undertook multiple other initiatives to support businesses and individuals through the pandemic including the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, Business Resumption Support Scheme, working from home allowances, cross border working rules and multiple other items.
One that I should specifically mention is the tax debt warehousing scheme which gave massive liquidity assistance to individuals and businesses. This helped them with their cash-flow during the difficult trading periods associated with the pandemic. It was an innovative and very effective initiative and the recent extension of the deadline will continue to support the long-term economic viability and survival of the businesses who have tax debts warehoused.
I understand that Revenue and the Department of Finance were among public bodies who received an award from Chambers Ireland last year, recognising the impact on business sustainability of the supports provided during Covid.
Cost of Living response
We are now in the midst of other challenges such as the cost of living impact from rising energy prices. This has created a further demand for supports and Revenue has again been proactive in developing the appropriate supports for businesses.
Decisions were taken by Government this morning which will be of further assistance for business. I recognise and appreciate the input that Revenue officials provided in the development and implementation of Government policy which has a real impact on the lives of businesses and households, in particular the changes we are making to the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate my view that the reputation of the institutions of the State is a critical factor in our economic success and the wellbeing of society. It enables us to engage effectively in discussions at international forums such as the EU and OECD.
Revenue stands in very high esteem both at home and abroad and its professionalism and expertise are a source of great strength for us as a country. I congratulate you on reaching your centenary and I wish the organisation and all its staff all the best for the future.