News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 5th September 2016

Irish State to shut controversial ‘vulture fund’ tax loopholes

Use of funds’ charitable status to be tackled in Finance Bill, department vows

Image result for Irish State to shut controversial ‘vulture fund’ tax loopholes  Image result for Michael McGrath: the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman

Michael McGrath: the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman says he wrote to the Minister and the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, urging them to close the loophole.

The Government has committed to close off a number of controversial tax loopholes as part of a drive to ensure tax transparency and fairness in the wake of the Apple tax ruling.

The Department of Finance confirmed yesterday that a loophole in legislation dating to 1997 that has allowed vulture funds avoid tax by gaining charitable status will be closed off in the Finance Bill, to be published after the budget.

Provisions of the legislation, especially section 110 of the Finance Act 1997, have allowed such funds – which have acquired billions of euro of distressed debt and properties – to register as charities and minimise their tax bills to negligible amounts.

Their use of the legislation in this manner has also been examined by the Charities Regulator.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said yesterday that the change, as reported by the Sunday Business Post, is being considered in the context of the Finance Act.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said yesterday that he wrote to Michael Noonan and the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners last month, urging them to close the loophole.

“I wrote that the use of aggressive tax avoidance by the funds did not seem to be consistent with section 110..

“I would hope the Government is minded to shut it down.

Introducing legislation option?

“I also said that if Revenue was of the opinion it did not have existing powers to deal with this, legislation should be brought forward and that Fianna Fáil would be happy to support it,” he said.

The department is now examining the legislative option as a means of addressing the loophole.

It forms part of a broader move by the Government to repair Ireland’s reputation internationally after it was damaged by a series of controversies over its tax structure, not least by the European Commission ruling on Apple. In addition to a review of the corporation tax set-up, the Government has made a commitment to achieve tax justice, a key demand of Independent Minister Katherine Zappone.

An important concession achieved by the Minister for Children was that any tax opinion would be valid for a maximum of five years. This would represent a significant change.

Ministers from Fine Gael and from the Independent ranks agreed yesterday that internal communications between the dominant party and its Coalition partners needed to be put on a more structured basis, rather than the slightly informal nature of operations until now.

The Independent Alliance has appointed experienced lawyer Tony Williams as a special adviser and programme manager, and he will undertake that liaison work within government. The group is also expected to appoint a press officer this month to represent its views and position in government.

A Fine Gael Minister said yesterday the “mood music” this week was a measurable improvement from the tense exchanges that took place during the vote on the private members’ motion on fatal foetal abnormalities.

Apple ruling

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty confirmed the party had tabled an amendment to the Government motion on its appeal of the Apple ruling, to be heard in the Dáil on Wednesday. The amendment calls on the Government to spend the €13 billion on essential services.

However, with support from Fianna Fáil and from Labour, the Government is expected to have a comfortable majority in the Dáil.

CSO to revise property price index to include cash purchases

Move comes after criticism that its mortgage data-based index only covers 50% of market

Image result for CSO to revise property price index to include cash purchases  Image result for CSO to revise property price index to include cash purchases

The new index is expected to be published by the end of September. 

The Central Statistics Office has responded to criticism of how it calculates property price trends by substantially revising its price index, which is now set to include cash purchases for the first time.

The new index, which tracks house prices across the country, had been due to launch this week but has now been postponed and is expected to be published by the end of September.

Including data on cash purchases may lead to a substantial revision of the index. The most recent index for example showed that prices across the country rose by 6.6 per cent in the year to June, but once it is reconstituted, this figure may change.

Since its launch in 2011, the index has been based on mortgage data from lenders only but now it will be based on stamp duty returns. Given that cash buyers accounted for about 47 per cent of all transactions in the first six months of the year, and more than 50 per cent in previous years, the index has to date only reflected price trends in about half of the market.

The new index

The new index will replace the existing monthly Residential Property Price Index and will be based on stamp duty returns made to the Revenue Commissioners, which is the same data source as the Residential Property Price Register (RPPR), maintained by the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

It means that it will cover both cash and mortgage-based transactions for the first time, as well as all market purchases of houses and apartments. When the index was first launched in 2011, e-stamping had only been introduced, and the CSO was unable to access Revenue data, hence the reliance on mortgage statistics.

The CSO said the move represents a “significant methodological improvement” over the existing index, as in addition to the stamp duty information, data from the RPPR will be matched with Building Energy Rating certification data provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and locational characteristics from the GeoDirectory and census 2011 small area population statistics.

The new index will also include regional indices, giving a breakdown of price and transactions trends in specific areas, such as Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, as well as statistics drawn from Eircodes.

It will also include details on the characteristics of sellers and buyers.

One omission in the new index is data on institutional buyers, such as the likes of real estate investment trusts, and it will also exclude non-market transactions.

Some 2,137 young jobseekers in Donegal as Youth Council calls for moves to reduce figure

Image result for Some 2,137 young jobseekers in Donegal as Youth Council calls for moves to reduce figure   Image result for young jobseekers in Donegal

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has called for measures to reduce youth unemployment in County Donegal and nationwide.

Data from the Department of Social Protection shows that the number of young people in Donegal in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit is 2,137.

“This number is still far too high and investment to tackle the continued high level of youth unemployment are needed,” according to James Doorley, deputy director at the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), which represents youth organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide.

As part of its pre-budget submission published recently, the NYCI is calling for an investment of €30m in a renewed Youth Guarantee scheme and asking Government to incentivise education, training and work experience for young people by reversing the cuts in payments to young people on these schemes. Mr Doorley said:

“While youth unemployment has declined from the crisis levels of the 2009 to 2013 period, the most recent figures indicate that we have almost 40,000** young people on the live register – of whom 16,000*** have been on the register for one year or more. In Donegal alone there are 2137 young people in receipt of Jobseekers payments. We need action now to support these young people on the path to employment.”

The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland

 Image result for The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland   litter  Image result for The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland

Illegal dumping near Rathfarnham in Dublin earlier this year.

A survey has revealed the cleanest and most littered areas in the country.

Only 2 of 25 towns surveyed were deemed littered, but 7 of the bottom 8 places on the list were city areas in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Kilkenny was named Ireland’s cleanest area in the survey by Irish Business Against Litter, while Farranree in Cork was Ireland’s only ‘litter blackspot’.

The previously littered towns of Athlone, Portlaoise and Ennis all improved to ‘Clean to European Norms’, while Maynooth shot up 19 places in the rankings.

Dublin city centre had its best ever showing, with Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Christchurch receiving top marks.

“Dublin City Council has done a fine job in presenting the capital at its best in what was an important summer for tourism,” says IBAL’s Conor Horgan. “This job was complemented by the roads around Dublin Airport being exceptionally clean. At the same time Ballymun and North Inner City were littered, so we’re not near to solving the capital’s litter problem yet.”

Galvone in Limerick city and Mahon in Cork city were also found to be littered.

These survey findings bear out our contention that while our city centres are generally well maintained, disadvantaged areas continue to be the source of much of the litter in our country,” continues Horgan.

According to IBAL, litter is a symptom of social neglect, and councils need to look at a community-wide response targeting those areas where the problem is at its worst.

“Work at keeping these areas clean for six to twelve months and they are likely to stay clean, and the community can have pride in their neighbourhood, “ says Horgan. “That does cost money initially, but the payback will be significant.”

The survey also found that while littering had decreased, dumping is on the rise; IBAL are concerned that mandatory pay-by-weight bin charges, due to be introduced next year, could encourage dumping.

Red kite chicks bred in Fingal for first time in 100 years

Fledglings in the air after efforts to reintroduce species initially beset by problems.

Image result for Red kite chicks bred in Fingal for first time in 100 years  Red-Kite-2-web   Image result for red kite in flight

The successful Fingal fledgling comes after GET, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust, brought back red kites to Ireland between 2007 and 2011.

Three newly fledged red kite chicks are soaring over Dublin after a successful breeding programme.

Years of patient efforts to reintroduce red kites into Ireland have resulted in three chicks being fledged in two nests in Fingal this year, the Golden Eagle Trust (GET) said.

It is good news for the kites, which last bred in north Co Dublin more than 100 years ago, but bad news for rats and crows which are among the birds’ favourite fodder.

Efforts to reintroduce the species in Ireland in recent years were initially beset by problems due to the use of second generation rodenticides, leading to a campaign for the responsible use of such chemicals.

The successful Fingal fledgling comes after GET, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust, brought back red kites to Ireland between 2007 and 2011.

Strategic locations

The Fingal Red Kite release programme was part of the final year of the project and the final batch of 53 red kites was released in 2011 at various strategic locations in Fingal.

Dr Marc Ruddock of GET said the confirmation of the three chicks in 2016 is “hugely rewarding” and means there are now six established pairs of kites.

Hans Visser, biodiversity officer at Fingal Co Council, said this was a “pretty amazing” result as red kites were last breeding in north Co Dublin more than a century ago.

The presence of the species here dates back much earlier. Numerous red kite bones were uncovered from excavations of the 11th century Wood Quay site in Dublin, and were also noted in the Phoenix Park in the 14th century.

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