Business Irish

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Blow for RTE as plan for Revenue licence fee collection stalls

Revenue Commissioners strongly oppose taking on extra duties amid Brexit

One of RTE's key solutions for addressing its financial shortfall is tackling licence-fee evasion. Stock Image Photo: Getty Images
One of RTE's key solutions for addressing its financial shortfall is tackling licence-fee evasion. Stock Image Photo: Getty Images

Samantha McCaughren, Business Editor

A proposal for the Revenue Commissioners to take over the collection of the RTE licence fee is highly unlikely to proceed, according to several sources.

It is understood that the Revenue Commissioners are strongly against a proposal that would see them collect the licence fee alongside the Local Property Tax.

One of RTE's key solutions for addressing its financial shortfall is tackling licence-fee evasion, which it believes could yield €40m a year. It is currently collected by An Post and evasion rates are around 14pc.

While putting the contract out to tender is an option, transferring the responsibility to Revenue would be the most efficient way of eliminating evasion. Under the plan for Revenue to take over collection, the licence fee would have been collected in the same manner as the Local Property Tax (LPT).

Tasks outlined for Communications Minister Richard Bruton in briefing notes on the role stated: "Subject to Government approval, engagement with Revenue on the collection of the licence fee with LPT and implement new collection regime. Alternative funding mechanisms to be urgently pursued if LPT proposal does not progress."

It is understood that RTE privately does not expect Revenue to take on the contract, while a number of sources said that Revenue had no appetite to take on the collection of additional charges.

Revenue have voiced concerns about 'mission creep' which would be a weakening of their primary role, the collection of taxes. They are wary of going down the route of the UK's HMRC, which saw the tax authority take on a raft of additional responsibilities.

Revenue are also intently focused on the complexities of Brexit at present, which is another reason why they are not in favour of collecting the licence fee.

"The working group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting was set up by Government decision in July 2018 to examine options for the reform of TV licence collection, including collection by Revenue. The group's report will be submitted to the Minister shortly," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Communications.

However, RTE is not optimistic about a breakthrough in its funding crisis and has spoken to managers about the possible need for new cost-cutting measures as a result. As previously reported in the Sunday Independent a new more-focused redundancy scheme is among the options which may be considered.

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