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Garda bosses raid budget to pay €12m bill for staff taxes

GARDA bosses have been forced to raid their annual budget to pay €12.4m to the Revenue Commissioners, after a series of allowances to gardai were wrongly left untaxed.

The demand for back taxes was delivered by Revenue officials after they won a battle with the garda authorities on whether the allowances should come into the tax net.

Allowances for plainclothes duties, using bicycles, and officers sitting on interview boards have all now been deemed fully taxable.

In addition, 40pc of the value of special payments for detective work, wearing uniforms and boots, and working as community relations or juvenile liaison officers are also taxable.

Dividing out the back payments among the nation's almost 14,000 gardai would have resulted in an average deduction of around €885 per member.

But the rank and file have escaped picking up the cost of the backdated tax themselves, although they will pay tax on these allowances from now on. Management decided that the back taxes should be paid from the force's budget, rather than attempt to implement deductions from individual pay slips.

This means the annual budget for police work will be raided -- with one senior garda officer last night claiming that it was the only feasible and realistic arrangement.

Members of the gardai are in receipt of several different allowances and exact calculations vary among ranks, categories and postings of gardai. Since the start of the year gardai of all ranks have been paying taxes on six specific allowances which had previously been regarded as outside the scope of the Revenue.

But Revenue officials began taking a closer look at the payment of allowances to gardai more than a year ago after the force's chief administration officer made a voluntary disclosure of them to the tax officials.

The results of the study sparked off a round of talks involving the Revenue with garda management, and members of the four staff associations. For more than a year there were arguments that the allowances had traditionally been tax free.

But the Revenue ruled that back payments totalling €12.4m to take account of the force's PAYE and PRSI liabilities should be handed over.

Senior gardai said the back taxes were paid before Christmas -- around the same time that the force received €27m to meet the costs of providing security earlier in the year for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama.

Irish Independent