Business Irish

Saturday 24 February 2018

Dozens of major firms seek new tax rulings after Apple decision

Revenue requires renewals of tax opinions due to new five year cut-off rule

'New figures from Revenue reveal that there have been 60 applications for renewals of opinions, 46 of which are in its Large Cases Division.' (stock image)
'New figures from Revenue reveal that there have been 60 applications for renewals of opinions, 46 of which are in its Large Cases Division.' (stock image)
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Dozens of Ireland's largest companies are awaiting key tax decisions from Revenue after the tax authority introduced new rules limiting the lifetime of its opinions to five years.

As emerged in the EU's Apple ruling, Revenue gives opinions as to how it interprets tax legislation, providing certainty on complex corporate tax affairs.

However, Revenue has said that all opinions given prior to January 2012 cannot be relied on any longer and must be renewed. Applications for renewals were required by June of this year.

New figures from Revenue reveal that there have been 60 applications for renewals of opinions, 46 of which are in its Large Cases Division. This deals with companies which have a turnover of over €162m a year, such as multinationals and major employers. The division also deals with 500 high net worth individuals.

A third of the renewals being sought relate to corporation tax. New interpretations on Vat and income tax are also being sought.

There are fears the renewed opinions will reflect a more conservative approach taken by Revenue since the Apple ruling, a claim that Revenue rejects.

There are also claims that an exodus of older, experienced Revenue staff is resulting in a more cautious approach to opinions given to companies.

A Revenue spokesman said: "It is important to note that it has always been the case that an opinion will only remain valid for so long as the facts and circumstances on which it is based have not changed and the relevant legislation and practice remain in place."

Change to the time limit on opinions was introduced on foot of a Revenue board review and was announced during a Dail Debate in September 2016, shortly after the Apple ruling was announced.

At a meeting between tax practitioners and Revenue earlier this year, the matter of industry-wide opinions was raised with the example of the Revenue opinions on aircraft leasing.

Revenue confirmed industry-wide rulings were also subject to the five-year rule.

Brian Keegan, director of public policy and taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland, said: "Revenue are increasingly good at dealing with routine matters. Anything out of the ordinary at all, they are not.

"It comes down to a skills shortage, retirement and also that, since the Apple decision, and without prejudice to whether that decision is right or wrong, there is a greater instinct for caution there."

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