Finance Minister Michael Noonan has today introduced the 2012 Finance Bill. Its highlights include: VAT cuts on bagels, blaas and other specialist bread products; tax relief for professional cricketers; new Revenue powers to combat serious tax scams, and a new self-assessment system for Stamp Duty.
Tax Relief on Third Level Fees
The tax relief on third level tuition fees is being curbed. For full-time students, the first €2,250 in annual fees will not qualify for tax relief. For part-time students, the first €1,125 in fees is ineligible for relief.
The Bill proposes two notable changes to the tax regime for civil partnerships. Legally binding maintenance agreements made on the breakup of a civil partnership will now be treated for tax purposes in the same way as those for married couples.
The second change will allow that following the breakdown of a civil partnership, where there is a legally binding agreement, and the parties are still living under the same roof, they will enjoy the same tax treatment as formerly married couples in similar circumstances.
Revenue Job Assist
Individuals who are signing for PRSI credits with the Department of Social Protection can now qualify for the Revenue Job Assist scheme. This scheme allows an individual to claim a partial tax deduction in each of the 3 tax years after they take up employment having been unemployed for at least 12 months.
The Bill provides for the following changes to share-based remuneration: mainly affecting the I.T. sector.
- Where employees and directors have deferred the payment of income tax on share option gains due to a drop in the share price, half of any after-tax gain on the sale of the shares must now go to pay down the outstanding income tax liability until that liability has been cleared.
- Income levy and USC refunds may apply where shares are forfeited.
- An employer can now withhold or sell sufficient shares awarded to employees, to fund the income tax charge on that award of shares, before transferring the remainder to the employee. This applies only where the employee fails to provide the employer with sufficient cash to pay the income tax charge.
Sportspersons’ tax relief
Professional cricketers can now on retirement avail of the sportspersons’ tax relief already enjoyed by other professional athletes. They can also qualify for a higher rate of relief on pension contributions.
CAPITAL ACQUISITIONS TAX (CAT)
The Group B (uncle, aunt, sibling, niece, nephew etc) CAT tax-free threshold is rounded up to €33,500 and the Group C (non-relatives) threshold rises to €16,750 with effect from Budget Day 7 December 2011
The annual pay and file date for CAT on Gifts & Inheritances is being moved back from 30 September to 31 October.
CAT Agricultural Relief
The three-year residence condition for CAT agricultural relief is being removed. This is in order to comply with EU Treaty provisions on freedom of movement of persons and capital.
A loan against a principal private residence will only qualify as a deduction for CAT agricultural relief purposes where the loan proceeds were used to purchase, repair or improve that residence.
The exemption from CAT on the gift or inheritance of heritage properties sold to State bodies will now include properties sold to cultural institutions funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
A self-assessment system will now apply to Stamp Duty is to be put on a self-assessment footing, in common with other taxes.
- A 30-day time limit will now apply to the stamping of a transaction.
- Revenue will have power to make Stamp Duty assessments, and new audit and appeal procedures will be introduced.
- The existing adjudication procedure will be abolished;
A number of changes are being made to relieve the often penal taxation that arises where the capital value of an individual’s pension benefits at retirement exceed €2.3 million (or a higher Personal Fund Threshold –PFT – if applicable).
RELEVANT CONTRACTS TAX
This Finance Bill gives legislative effect to the implementation of the new electronic Relevant Contract Tax (e-RCT) system from 1 January 2012.
The current general six-year requirement to keep business records will now also apply to liquidated and dissolved companies.
Payment Transactions Returns
Credit & Debit card merchant services and third party payment processors will now be required to make regular automatic returns to Revenue of all funds credited to traders. This is in response to a suspicion that “some businesses may be underreporting card payment transactions.”
The penalties for deliberately or carelessly making incorrect income tax returns will now also apply to Domicile Levy and the Universal Social Charge returns
A tax debtor may now be required to complete a statutory statement of affairs to demonstrate their ability or otherwise to pay debts to Revenue. Failure to do so will now be a Revenue offence. This is designed to stymie efforts by some debtors to hide assets in negotiations with Revenue.
Serious Tax Criminality
The Bill proposes extended Revenue powers to counter tax evasion and the black economy, focusing on serious Revenue offences. This includes oil laundering and cigarette smuggling, Relevant Contracts Tax scams, and major cross-border VAT and other frauds.
VAT on Bread
The range of breads eligible for Zero rate VAT is being extended to include loaves, rolls, batch bread, bagels, baps, blaas, burger buns, finger rolls, wraps, naan breads and pitta bread.
Other bread products which are reckoned to have “excessively high levels of sugar and fat” will remain liable for VAT at either the 13.5% or 23% rate. These include croissants, brioche and Danish pastries
VAT on Property
A number of minor changes are being made to the VAT rules regarding property.
- A reverse charge will now apply where construction services are supplied between connected persons.
- Under the capital goods scheme, the adjustment period for ‘transitional properties’ will not revert to 20 years “where development has taken place and where that development constitutes a ‘refurbishment’ for VAT purposes”.
iXBRL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Corporation Tax returns can now include iXBRL (inline eXtensible Business Reporting Language) accounts.