News

Follow our weekly bulletin on key public policy issues for the island of Ireland.

Sustainability

  The IFRS Foundation Trustees has issued a Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting. Its purpose is to assess demand for global sustainability standards and, if demand is strong, assess whether and to what extent the Foundation might contribute to the development of such standards.The Consultation Paper sets out possible ways the Foundation might contribute to the development of global sustainability standards by broadening its current remit beyond the development of financial reporting standards and using its experience in international standard-setting, its well-established and supported standard-setting processes and its governance structure.One possible option outlined in the paper is for the Foundation to establish a new sustainability standards board. The new board could operate alongside the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) under the same three-tier governance structure, build on existing developments and collaborate with other bodies and initiatives in sustainability, focusing initially on climate-related matters.Described as "a critical step on the path towards a global solution to sustainability reporting" the consultation has been applauded by organisations such as IFAC, which believes that demand is urgent and real—from investors, policymakers and other stakeholders—for a sustainability reporting system that delivers consistent, comparable, reliable, and assurable information. According to IFAC CEO, Kevin Dancey, the IFRS Foundation is "the appropriate home" for a new sustainability standards board. Under the IFRS umbrella, the work of this new board could connect with the investor focus of the IASB, while also collaborating with respect to reporting requirements designed to address broader stakeholder interests. "Now is the time for Professional Accounting Organizations around the world to lend their expertise and support as the IFRS Foundation Trustees consider this important challenge. IFAC looks forward to engaging with our members and other key stakeholders in formulating a full supportive response to the Consultation.”    

Oct 06, 2020
Sustainability

 The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) have developed a new Energy Management Guide and supporting workbook to help businesses assess their current energy use. Covering best practices that can be put in place to save energy, this guide is suitable for SMEs looking to start their energy management journey. 

Oct 06, 2020
Sustainability

In September, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Eamon Ryan TD, announced that 39 community projects would receive grant funding of €28 million under the Community Energy Grant Scheme.This includes commercial buildings, as well as homes and community buildings.The grants will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It will support projects with a total investment value of almost €74 million, which will also deliver employment benefits locally and nationally.Applications can be made through www.seai.ie 

Oct 06, 2020
Public Policy

 In Public Policy news, read about the economic forecasts underpinning Ireland’s Budget 2021 and the first meeting of the SME Growth Taskforce; how Irish employers are not prepared for changes to pensions law; how Northern Ireland social enterprises can apply for grants of up to £75,000 under a new COVID-19 fund; and how the EU Commission has adopted guidelines to help EU Member States reduce greenhouse gas  emissions. Economic forecasts underpinning Budget 2021 published The Department of Finance published its Budget 2021 forecasts. The forecasts predicted a 2.5 per cent fall in GDP in 2020, with minimal recovery (1.4 percent) in 2021. Unemployment is predicted to fall 13.8 percent this year, with limited recovery (7 percent or 145,000 jobs) expected in 2021. The domestic economy has been severely hit by COVID-19, although the impact on GDP is less than had been expected in the Spring, mainly due to the strong performance and contribution of the multinational sector. Modified domestic demand, which was described as “perhaps the best indicator of domestic economic conditions”, is projected to fall by 6.5 per cent in 2020.These macroeconomic forecasts that will underpin Budget 2021 assume that:trade between the UK and the EU will be WTO terms, due to a disorderly end to the Brexit transition period; anda widespread vaccination for Covid-19 vaccine will not be available.Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said that the Budget will prioritise management of the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit, with any further measures targeted at the three priorities in the Programme for Government – health, housing and climate change. SME Growth Taskforce meets to plan long-term strategyThe first meeting of the new SME Growth Taskforce has taken place, chaired by Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar. The Taskforce formed in order to design a ‘National SME Growth Plan’. This SME Growth Plan will ultimately form part of the National Economic Plan, which will be published in November.Committed to in the Programme for Government, the Taskforce aims to map out an ambitious long-term strategy for SMEs and entrepreneurs beyond COVID-19. Its work – and that of its focused sub-groups – will draw upon an OECD Review of SME Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland. Published in October 2019, this report contained recommendations on how Ireland should respond to the long-term challenges faced by SMEs, namely how to: raise productivity levels; increase business dynamism and start-up rates; facilitate entrepreneurship among women, youth and migrants; scale up micro-enterprises and generate more medium-sized firms; and increase SME activity on foreign markets.Read more about the Taskforce here. Irish employers under-prepared for changes to pensions law A survey published by professional services firm Aon Solutions, has found that many Irish pension schemes are underprepared for auto-enrolment and other pending legal requirements. The survey, ‘Getting the measure of DC pensions in Ireland’ found that: the State’s pension age of 66 is due to rise to 68 from 2028 – however, 88 per cent of the schemes covered in the survey have a normal retirement age of 65;over 25 per cent of employees eligible to join their employers pension schemes have not done so;many who have are not paying the maximum contribution, thereby not capitalising on their employers’ potential matching contribution;most defined-contribution pension schemes are not ready to automatically enrol workers in their pension schemes, despite the State’s plans to require them to do so from 2022, nor are they prepared for IORP II, a directive soon to be part of Irish law;trustee boards are increasingly measuring their performance, and 60 per cent are now using a risk register, suggesting an increased focus on governance and compliance. Speaking about the survey AON CE Rachael Ingle urged Ireland to work together and act quickly so as to avoid the ‘accelerating pension time bomb’. Northern Ireland social enterprise fund opens for applicationsSocial enterprises – businesses which reinvest their profits for social and/or environmental purpose – will be eligible to apply for grants of £75,000 through a new scheme co-designed by Social Enterprise NI and Community Finance Ireland. The Department for Communities DfC Covid Social Enterprise Fund of £7 million aims to help social enterprises stabilise and manage cash flows, during the COVID-19 period, avoid closure and the subsequent loss of employment and key services, and ensure that the sector was “fit for purpose for the future”, according to Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Applications will be accepted until October 23. EU Commission adopts revised EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines In line with the EU’s plans to become the first climate neutral economy by 2050, the EU Commission has adopted the revised EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines (“the ETS Guidelines”). They will enter into force with on 1 January 2021 and will replace previous guidelines adopted in 2012. European Union Emissions Trading System (or EU ETS) is a system to help EU Member States achieve commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) emissions in a cost-effective way. It does this by allowing participating companies to buy or sell emission allowances. Companies in the EU ETS must report on their GHG emissions each year and purchase an ‘emissions allowance’ for every tonne of CO2 equivalent they have emitted. The EU ETS was the first large GHG emissions trading scheme in the world and remains the largest.  Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Oct 05, 2020
Public Policy

 In this week’s Public Policy news, read about the economic forecasts underpinning Ireland’s Budget 2021 and the first meeting of the SME Growth Taskforce; how Irish employers are not prepared for changes to pensions law; how Northern Ireland social enterprises can apply for grants of up to £75,000 under a new COVID-19 fund; and how the EU Commission has adopted guidelines to help EU Member States reduce greenhouse gas  emissions. Economic forecasts underpinning Budget 2021 published This week the Department of Finance published its Budget 2021 forecasts. The forecasts predicted a 2.5 per cent fall in GDP in 2020, with minimal recovery (1.4 percent) in 2021. Unemployment is predicted to fall 13.8 percent this year, with limited recovery (7 percent or 145,000 jobs) expected in 2021. The domestic economy has been severely hit by COVID-19, although the impact on GDP is less than had been expected in the Spring, mainly due to the strong performance and contribution of the multinational sector. Modified domestic demand, which was described as “perhaps the best indicator of domestic economic conditions”, is projected to fall by 6.5 per cent in 2020.These macroeconomic forecasts that will underpin Budget 2021 assume that:trade between the UK and the EU will be WTO terms, due to a disorderly end to the Brexit transition period; anda widespread vaccination for Covid-19 vaccine will not be available.Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said that the Budget will prioritise management of the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit, with any further measures targeted at the three priorities in the Programme for Government – health, housing and climate change. SME Growth Taskforce meets to plan long-term strategyThe first meeting of the new SME Growth Taskforce has taken place, chaired by Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar. The Taskforce formed in order to design a ‘National SME Growth Plan’. This SME Growth Plan will ultimately form part of the National Economic Plan, which will be published in November.Committed to in the Programme for Government, the Taskforce aims to map out an ambitious long-term strategy for SMEs and entrepreneurs beyond COVID-19. Its work – and that of its focused sub-groups – will draw upon an OECD Review of SME Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland. Published in October 2019, this report contained recommendations on how Ireland should respond to the long-term challenges faced by SMEs, namely how to: raise productivity levels; increase business dynamism and start-up rates; facilitate entrepreneurship among women, youth and migrants; scale up micro-enterprises and generate more medium-sized firms; and increase SME activity on foreign markets.Read more about the Taskforce here. Irish employers under-prepared for changes to pensions law A survey published this week by professional services firm Aon Solutions, found that many Irish pension schemes are underprepared for auto-enrolment and other pending legal requirements. The survey, ‘Getting the measure of DC pensions in Ireland’ found that: the State’s pension age of 66 is due to rise to 68 from 2028 – however, 88 per cent of the schemes covered in the survey have a normal retirement age of 65;over 25 per cent of employees eligible to join their employers pension schemes have not done so;many who have are not paying the maximum contribution, thereby not capitalising on their employers’ potential matching contribution;most defined-contribution pension schemes are not ready to automatically enrol workers in their pension schemes, despite the State’s plans to require them to do so from 2022, nor are they prepared for IORP II, a directive soon to be part of Irish law;trustee boards are increasingly measuring their performance, and 60 per cent are now using a risk register, suggesting an increased focus on governance and compliance. Speaking about the survey AON CE Rachael Ingle urged Ireland to work together and act quickly so as to avoid the ‘accelerating pension time bomb’. Northern Ireland social enterprise fund opens for applicationsSocial enterprises – businesses which reinvest their profits for social and/or environmental purpose – will be eligible to apply for grants of £75,000 through a new scheme co-designed by Social Enterprise NI and Community Finance Ireland. The Department for Communities DfC Covid Social Enterprise Fund of £7 million aims to help social enterprises stabilise and manage cash flows, during the COVID-19 period, avoid closure and the subsequent loss of employment and key services, and ensure that the sector was “fit for purpose for the future”, according to Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Applications will be accepted until October 23. EU Commission adopts revised EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines In line with the EU’s plans to become the first climate neutral economy by 2050, the EU Commission has adopted the revised EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines (“the ETS Guidelines”). They will enter into force with on 1 January 2021 and will replace previous guidelines adopted in 2012. European Union Emissions Trading System (or EU ETS) is a system to help EU Member States achieve commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) emissions in a cost-effective way. It does this by allowing participating companies to buy or sell emission allowances. Companies in the EU ETS must report on their GHG emissions each year and purchase an ‘emissions allowance’ for every tonne of CO2 equivalent they have emitted. The EU ETS was the first large GHG emissions trading scheme in the world and remains the largest. Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Oct 02, 2020
Public Policy

Northern Ireland will have the most complex customs and VAT requirements in Europe post Brexit Confusion remains among NI businesses about how Brexit-related changes will impact them, with less than 5 percent fully prepared Businesses need to start preparing now but 37 percent waiting until the picture becomes clearer UK government launches Trader Support Service, a free customs advisory tool for businesses moving goods between NI and GB  New research from Chartered Accountants Ireland shows that uncertainty about the impact of Brexit-related changes is high, while levels of preparedness among Northern Ireland businesses remain low.  The data shows that while three quarters of those surveyed are aware of the customs and VAT changes that the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland will bring, few fully understand their application or impact on trade.  The changes proposed under the Protocol mean that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK customs territory but will remain somewhat aligned with the EU’s customs union and single market to avoid certain checks on goods on the Irish border. While 60 per cent of businesses in Northern Ireland are aware of the Trader Support Service, a free customs advisory and services tool for businesses launched by the UK Government this week, 38 percent aren’t sure whether or not the system would apply to them. 18 percent of respondents have registered their interest in the scheme to date.  Public Policy Lead in Chartered Accountants Ireland Cróna Clohisey commented: “Northern Ireland faces unprecedented upheaval in terms of VAT and customs next year. There are several changes coming down the tracks and the devil is most certainly in the detail.   “Take VAT for example. Next year, the UK will have three different VAT systems across goods and services with Northern Ireland following EU rules on goods. This will make the system the most complicated in the EU meaning businesses are going to have to align both their knowledge and systems to be ready.  “Our research showed that almost two thirds of those surveyed are confused about the changes.”  Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU customs rules with no customs controls, declarations or duties required for the movement of goods between NI and the Republic of Ireland. However, customs controls will be needed when goods move from GB to NI and very likely on imports into NI from the rest of the world.   This means in addition to significant changes in VAT rules, businesses in Northern Ireland will also have to follow different customs rules depending on the countries they trade with.   Chair of Chartered Accountants Ireland’s Northern Ireland Tax Committee, Alan Gourley said: “Come 1 January, many businesses in Northern Ireland will be dealing with customs formalities for the first time. These are the same businesses that are already struggling with the impact of Covid-19 and may not have the resources at this particular time to get up to speed with import processes and customs and safety declarations.” “The Trader Support Service might suit these businesses. It is free to use and will guide traders through what the Northern Ireland Protocol means for them and the steps that they must take to comply with the new rules.  “Businesses can choose whether they use the system as an education resource or whether they also want the service to complete digital declarations on their behalf. Whichever option they take, we urge businesses to act now to access the information they need to make the preparations required for 1 January. “  

Oct 02, 2020