No Revenue estimates for Custom losses in a no deal Brexit

01 April 2019

Labour Finance spokesperson, Joan Burton TD has expressed her surprise at the lack of estimates from the Revenue Commissions of tax and duty losses from smuggling in the event of a no deal Brexit, with only 210 staff allocated to compliance at present in the Border area.

This follows a series of Dáil questions tabled by Deputy Burton.Deputy Burton said:

“As the clock ticks down to 12th April, and a no deal Brexit, it is essential that Ireland is prepared for such a scenario and the problems it will cause in the border region.

“We all want to avoid a hard border, but one of the consequences of the UK crashing out is likely to be a large increase in smuggling activity. This will have a knock on impact on the amount of tax and duties that are collected by the Irish State. We should have at least some estimates of these, under different scenarios.

“I have been asking the Minister for Finance and the Revenue Commissioners a series of questions about the number of customs officers, their training, and the potential losses in the event of a no deal Brexit. As the worst outcome becomes possible, we have no certainty on the type of controls or checks that will happen with cross border trade or whether it will be carried out in ports, and at factory gates.

“Due to the uncertainty of the Brexit outcome, I have been told that it is not possible to develop a credible estimate of the impact of smuggling on tax and duty receipts. In the border area there is currently a total of 210 staff dedicated to compliance out of a staff total of 471 in the Revenue Commissioners. However these work across a range of areas, and not just customs and smuggling.

“The Minister did reiterate in his responses, that there are no preparations or plans for infrastructure at the Border. However, 600 additional staff are being hired to meet Brexit challenges and mostly work on Customs, but again we haven’t been told where they will be allocated. 400 were to be hired by the end of March, and then a further 200 in the event of a no deal exit.

“I am surprised that this close to a no deal exit there has been no modelling or estimates available on the losses to the Exchequer from an increase in smuggling, nor what plans there may be to allocate extra staff to this.”

ENDS

Note to Editors – Dáil Questions below:

QUESTION NOS: 107,108,115,116

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe)
by Deputy Joan Burton
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 27/03/2019

* To ask the Minister for Finance the number of outdoor customs staff stationed on the Border by county.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 27 March, 2019.

* To ask the Minister for Finance the estimate by the Revenue Commissioners of likely Exchequer losses by tax head arising from smuggling across the EU’s land border with the United Kingdom once the United Kingdom has left the EU.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 27 March, 2019.

* To ask the Minister for Finance the number of trained dogs engaged in customs and excise activities; the number of dogs under training; and if the Revenue Commissioners plan to increase the number of such animals.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 27 March, 2019.

* To ask the Minister for Finance the number of Revenue Commissioners staff involved in customs valuation activities; the levels of qualification and experience of such staff; and if the Revenue Commissioners plan to increase their number and training.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 27 March, 2019.

REPLY.
Revenue has provided me with the following table which provides details of staff assigned to compliance activities in border counties as well as the total staff based in these counties; this includes staff that are assigned to outdoor duties.  Revenue is an integrated tax and customs administration and its resources are deployed based on risk rather than by reference to a specific tax or duty.

Location Compliance Staff Total Staff
Donegal 73 108
Louth 65 251
Monaghan 20 40
Sligo 52 72
TOTAL 210 471

 Location Compliance Staff Total Staff
Donegal 73 108
Louth 65 251
Monaghan 20 40
Sligo 52 72
TOTAL 210 471

As the Deputy is aware, forecasts of tax and duty receipts are produced by the Department of Finance with assistance from Revenue. The role of Revenue is to advise of any potential increases and decreases in taxation that they become aware of in the course of administering taxes and duties and from other data sources available to them. Given the ongoing uncertainty with regard to the eventual Brexit outcome, and the challenges of estimating the impact of smuggling on tax and duty receipts even in normal times, I am advised that it is not possible to develop a credible estimate at this time.

I am advised by Revenue that it currently has twenty trained detector dog teams engaged in Customs and Excise activities. This includes one team that operates on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. Revenue is also running a Dog Handler competition to fill six further positions that are vacant currently.    

Revenue has confirmed that it is satisfied that the current level of detector dog teams meets existing Customs and Excise requirements. However, the situation is continuously monitored and further resources can be recruited should the need arise.

I am advised by Revenue that valuation is an integral element of customs training and skills development and that staff involved in customs work could be involved in customs valuation depending on the nature of the work being undertaken at any given time. This includes staff who work in trade facilitation, in customs post clearance checks and in customs compliance management. Training on customs valuation is a standard element of the customs training program. Revenue is a fully integrated tax and customs administration and it is not possible to identify the number of staff deployed on customs at any given time. As a result it is also not possible to provide information on the qualification and experience of these staff.

As the Deputy is aware, in September 2018, the Government granted approval in principle for the phased recruitment of an additional 600 Revenue staff to meet the challenges posed by Brexit. The majority of those six hundred staff will be working on customs work and have undertaken or will undertake an intensive in-house customs training course which includes training on customs valuation.

 

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe)
by Deputy Joan Burton
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 27/03/2019

To ask the Minister for Finance the steps taken by the Revenue Commissioners to protect customs officers stationed on or close to the Border from attacks; if he has considered arming customs officers as is practice in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY.
I am informed by Revenue that their preparations do not include any plans for infrastructure at the border. Revenue Chairman, Niall Cody, reiterated this when he addressed the Oireachtas Finance Committee on 24 January 2019. Revenue plans are focused on East West trade. Infrastructure requirements, IT enhancements, recruitment and training on this basis are well-advanced.

The Government has made it clear that its overriding objective is to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Ireland and the EU are at one on this. The EU has been clear that it is determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. And as co-guarantors, the two Governments will continue to have our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland

In the event of no-deal, then there will be intensive discussions between the Government, the EU Commission and EU partners regarding the movement of goods North-South.  I am assured by Revenue that they will provide whatever technical expertise and assistance is required by the government negotiating team during this process.

In terms of security and safety, An Garda Síochána is responsible for the security of the State and any issues relating to the safety and security of Customs Officers or Customs facilities are addressed to that organisation.

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