Revenue auditors go into the Dail
THE Revenue Commissioners has carried out the first-ever tax audit of the body that runs the Dail and Seanad -- but TDs' expenses are exempt.
It is the first time that a tax audit has been carried out on the Oireachtas Commission, the body which was set up in 2003 to run the Dail and Seanad.
But TDs' expenses are not subject to scrutiny by the taxman.
This is because there is a special provision in the tax law which states that the expenses paid to TDs and senators are exempt from income tax.
An Oireachtas source said it appeared to be a random audit by the Revenue, rather than anything prompted by a tip-off about tax irregularities.
However, the source said that the Revenue Commissioners had a track record of always recovering tax from its audits.
"It's very seldom that they go away empty-handed. They always come up with something," the source added.
The Oireachtas Commission has an annual budget of €108m and is responsible for paying the salaries of the 166 TDs and 60 senators, as well as their secretaries, parliamentary assistants and other support staff.
It also runs the Dail bar and restaurant.
An Oireachtas Commission spokeswoman confirmed that Revenue officials had carried out the tax audit in Leinster House over a two-week period this month.
The officials have now departed and the Oireachtas Commission will have to wait to see if Revenue contacts it again in regard to any tax issues.
Oireachtas sources expect the Revenue to be checking every tax-related payment including VAT receipts and PAYE deductions on salaries.
"It's perfectly understandable there would be an audit. The Oireachtas Commission is a public body," a source said.
According to the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act, the expenses of politicians "shall be exempt from income tax and shall not be reckoned in computing income for the purposes of the income tax".
The Revenue audit was confirmed at a meeting of the Finance committee of the Oireachtas Commission.
It is made up of a cross-party group of TDs and senators. According to a source at the meeting, the matter was discussed briefly under "any other business", with members being simply informed about the existence of the audit.
The biggest cost in the Oireachtas budget is the wages, travel expenses and supports for the 166 TDs and 60 senators.
The Oireachtas Commission has another 453 staff on its payroll, costing €24.6m per year. Some 378 staff were employed in the offices of TDs and senators, costing €18m per year.
Although the number of TDs is to be cut by eight, this will not take effect until the next general election, so no cost savings will be made till then.
According to a recent estimate, the annual cost per TD to the State is €277,063 – or more than €46m in total.
The Oireachtas Commission spokeswoman confirmed that a Revenue tax audit was taking place – and that it was the first time this had happened.
However, she said that the Oireachtas Commission was audited every year by the Comptroller and Auditor General, who was able to look at TDs' expenses. And she said that TDs expenses were also randomly audited every year by the private firm Mazars.