We need to learn from 2017 Finance Act

Law Society of Ireland urges better consultation on key tax provisions in pre-Budget submission 2018.

The Law Society of Ireland is urging the Government/Department of Finance to learn from the difficulties around the introduction of the Finance Act 2017 and ensure that adequate time is given to both practitioners and Revenue to consult properly on changes to key tax provisions.

The Law Society’s Pre-Budget Submission 2018 highlights how late changes made to stamp duty rules last year had a profound negative impact on property transactions, undermined confidence in the Irish tax code and created harmful uncertainty for property buyers or those considering investments in Ireland from abroad.

“The Finance Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced annually. The Budget announcements, and the publication of the Bill, are a key indicator of the health of the economy and are closely analysed here at home and internationally,” explains Gavin McGuire, solicitor and chair of the Society’s Taxation Committee.

“A number of significant material changes were introduced in the Finance Bill 2017 without any opportunity for proper consultation with experts and representative bodies as to the likely or potential consequences.”

Of particular concern to solicitors and their clients in 2017 was the late introduction of changes to stamp duty for non-residential property and non-residential property holding structures.

This had a number of serious commercial, banking, security and financing implications, which the Law Society spoke out about and highlighted in a letter to the Department of Finance in October 2017.

“On top of the financial burden this late change caused, it created significant uncertainty in a particularly sensitive market.” 

Technical consultation ahead of Finance Bill publication

The Law Society is recommending a formal technical consultation period before the Finance Bill is published.

Gavin McGuire explains, “The UK has for a number of years engaged in technical consultation as part of the drafting process for their Finance Bill. We believe a similar process would be hugely beneficial, allowing legal practitioners and other expert professionals assist the Oireachtas to achieve its legislative aims.”

Other key issues

Other key concerns highlighted in the submission include:

  • Implementing tax policies to free up housing stock,
  • Addressing the unfair position of qualifying benefits to disabled persons in the case of intestacy,
  • Ensuring that Ireland’s tax regime keeps pace with social and economic changes,
  • supporting the work of the Department of Finance in meeting national and international standards and expectations of tax transparency, and
  • implementing changes to deal with the continued development of the digital economy.

“These issues have been brought to our attention by our clients, the taxpaying public, and are based on their real-life experiences. They must be given serious consideration ahead of the 2018 Budget to avoiding repeating last year’s mistakes.”

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