Brass tax - April 2020

Apr 01, 2020
Kim Doyle considers the best course of action for businesses that are strained financially as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19, a term that was not part of most members’ vocabulary a mere two months ago, is now the unwanted commandeer of conversations. Self-isolation, social distancing, WFH (working from home) and CC (conference call) have become part of our basic business language. But we must not forget to keep talking about the old reliable, tax. Continue to talk to Revenue, as early as possible, if you are now experiencing timely tax payment difficulties. This is one of their key messages. The other is to get tax returns in on time.

At the time of writing, Revenue’s message to businesses strained financially as a result of the impact of COVID-19 is that they will work to resolve tax payment difficulties. Viable businesses that experience cash flow difficulties have long been encouraged by Revenue to engage with them as early as possible. Often, entering a phased payment arrangement is the appropriate practical step to deal with outstanding tax payments. In fact, at the end of 2019, over 6,300 business had such arrangements in place covering €73 million in tax debt, according to Revenue.

Revenue will only agree to a phased payment arrangement provided the relevant tax returns are filed with them, the tax due is fully calculated, the business is viable and there is early and honest engagement. Applications for such an arrangement can be made via the Revenue Online Service (ROS). Supporting documents will be required; the volume of documentation depends on the level of outstanding tax payments. A down-payment must be made, which can range from 25-40% of the total tax payment, which may include interest. Agents can apply on behalf of their clients via ROS. Applications are typically responded to within two weeks; in many cases, arrangements are up and running in a matter of days.

Responding to the difficulties arising from the impacts of COVID-19, Revenue has implemented specific measures for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) experiencing trading difficulties. Perhaps the most important being that interest will not be applied to late tax payments of VAT for the January/February period (due by 23 March) or employer PAYE liabilities for the months of February and March. Any future similar suspension will be considered at the relevant time, Revenue say.

For other businesses experiencing temporary cash flow or trading difficulties, the advice from Revenue is to contact the Collector-General’s office directly or the appropriate Revenue division.

Revenue has also suspended all debt enforcement activity, for now. Current tax clearance status is expected to remain in place for all businesses over the coming months. 

And in an effort to ease the burden on households, Revenue also announced the deferral of certain local tax payments (annual Debit Instruction/Single Debit Authority) to 21 May from 21 March. As of now, there is no statement from Revenue on dealing with other taxes such as corporation tax.

In this unprecedented turbulent environment, protecting the tax receipts must be one of the priorities for Government. It is hoped that any dip in tax receipts will be confined to 2020. However, as long as we continue to talk about COVID-19 and suffer the impacts, we must also continue to talk to Revenue.

Kim Doyle FCA, AITI-CTA, is Tax Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.