Revenue Tax Briefing

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Revenue Tax Briefing Issue 52, May 2003

Retention of Records

Records to be retained by telecommunication service providers and certain taxpayers

The purpose of this article is to clarify Revenue’s policy in relation to the obligations on telecommunication service providers and other persons to retain records under both the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 and the VAT Act, 1972 in respect of personal data relating to telephone calls made by individual subscribers to telecommunication services.

Taxpayer’s statutory obligations

Section 886 TCA 1997 imposes an obligation on taxpayers, including telecommunication service providers, to keep certain records. The definition of “records” is quite broad and includes accounts, books of account, documents and other data maintained manually or by electronic, photographic or other process, relating to:

  • All sums of money spent and received in the course of carrying on a trade, profession or other activity and the purpose of such receipts and expenditure,
  • All sales and purchases of goods and services where the carrying on of a trade profession or other activity involves the purchase or sale of goods or services,
  • The assets and liabilities of such trade, profession or other activity,
  • The acquisition and disposal of assets, which would be chargeable assets for capital gains tax purposes.

Section 16 VAT Act, 1972 also imposes an obligation on persons who are obliged under the VAT Act to operate VAT, to keep full and true records of all transactions which affect or may affect that person’s VAT liability.

General rule

The general rule is that details of the dialled number, the date and time and duration of particular calls are not records that are required to be kept by telecommunication service providers or taxpayers for the purpose of any tax. The word “tax” means any tax, duty, levy or charge under the care and management of the Revenue Commissioners.


However, this general rule does not apply to invoices, bills or other documents, or parts thereof, insofar as such documents or such parts show total billing amounts, or breakdowns of total billing amounts into categories of a general or aggregate nature. Accordingly, where one part of a document consists of a page or pages showing the total billing amount (or showing a breakdown of this billing amount into general or aggregate categories), and another part of the same document consists of a page or pages showing details of particular telephone calls made by individual subscribers, only the page or pages showing the total billing amount (or showing the breakdown of this amount as aforesaid) need be retained for tax purposes.

Revenue reserve the right to withdraw this policy in light of their ongoing operational requirements.