Who Are We?
The Tax Appeals Commission is an independent statutory body whose main task is hearing, determining and disposing of appeals against assessments and decisions of the Revenue Commissioners concerning taxes and duties in accordance with relevant legislation.
The legislation concerned is the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act, 2015, the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, as amended, and related legislation.
The Tax Appeals Commission replaces the former Office of the Appeal Commissioners.
It currently comprises of two Appeal Commissioners appointed by the Minister for Finance and a number of administrative staff who support the Commissioners in their work.
Further information is provided in response to questions 12 – 16 below.
What is behind the reform of the tax appeals system?
Various aspects of the arrangements surrounding the operation of the tax appeals system, have been the subject of consideration by various bodies over the last 15 years or so. These include the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts, the DIRT Inquiry, the Revenue Powers Group, the Law Reform Commission Report on a Fiscal Prosecutor and a Revenue Court and the Commission on Taxation. In addition, there have been proposals for changes to the appeals system from representative bodies, and a number of reports have made recommendations on this area in that time.
This reform is being introduced to ensure an enhanced and cost-effective appeal mechanism for tax cases, providing transparency and increased certainty for taxpayers, and to ensure that the appeals forum meets the independence and impartiality requirements contained in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; in this regard, while there is no suggestion of actual partiality under the former system, it is important that the Appeal Commissioners be seen as fully independent and there must be no actual or perceived bias in the operation of the Appeals system.
The relevant reform legislation was signed into law by the President on 25 December 2015. The Minister for Finance signed the relevant commencement orders to give effect to the new legislative provisions on 26 February 2016.The Tax Appeals Commission and the new regime for the processing of tax appeals enters into force on 21 March 2016.
What are the main reforms being introduced by the new legislation ?
The main reforms which are being introduced are –
- Statutory underpinning of the independence of the Tax Appeals Commission (Section 10 of the Act refers).
- Change of name from the Appeal Commissioners to the Tax Appeals Commission.
- Efficiencies in process – a new focus on flexible and active case management.
- Discretion to make determinations based on written submissions in the case of straightforward matters, subject to the agreement of the parties to the proceedings.
- Hearings in public – while public hearings will be the default position, an appellant may request that a hearing or part of a hearing be held in private.
- Publication – of determinations and more information
- Dismissal of appeals- The Appeal Commissioners will be able to dismiss an appeal where, for example, a taxpayer does not comply with directions given by Appeal Commissioners in relation to the conduct of the proceedings.
- A renewable fixed term of office of Appeal Commissioners of 7 years
- Annual reports and introduction of a more robust reporting regime- requirement to submit annual reports.
- Decisions of the Appeal Commissioners will now be final and conclusive. An appeal route which previously lay to the Circuit Court (for a full rehearing) is being discontinued. Appeal to the High Court will only be possible in situations where the party considers that the Appeal Commissioners erred in their determinations in relation to a point of law, only, and not in relation to the facts.
- Enhanced case management procedures, including the power to determine a broad range of interlocutory applications, to facilitate a more efficient and structured flow of appeals.
Will it be possible to make a tax appeal online?
On the ICT side, new computerised infrastructure to support the reformed appeals system is being introduced on a phased basis. From 22 December 2016, it is possible to make a tax appeal online. Those wishing to make an appeal may also do so by email or post using the notice of appeal form which is available on our website (www.taxappeals.ie).
How many cases do the Commissioners expect to get following commencement?
It is hard to estimate how many cases we are likely to receive on an annual basis under the new arrangements. Under the old regime, and following the submission of appeals, many cases were resolved directly between Revenue and the taxpayers and were never transmitted to the Appeal Commissioners. From 21 March, all applications for appeals will be made directly to the Tax Appeals Commission.
How many cases do the Commissioners expect to process in the first year?
It is assumed that what is meant here is the number of cases that are determined or decided on or are otherwise brought to finality.
However, in view of the number of new innovations in the legislation, including increased case management powers that are being given to the Commissioners, it is difficult to estimate at this point how many cases will be finalised each year. While the Commissioners are provided with new management powers, it is also the case that they are subject to new time constraints as regards various steps in the appeals process. In addition, some aspects of the process are likely to give rise to additional work by the Commission e.g. parties seeking directions or seeking to have directions amended, and cases stated to the High Court.
What about cases already in the system? How will these be handled?
The Finance (Tax Appeals) contains specific transitional provisions for dealing with cases that are already in the system. These provisions are contained in sections 22 to 32 of the Act. And they provide clarity for taxpayers as to how appeals that have already been made will be handled. Further details on the transition arrangements are available in our Rules of Procedure.
Why has the Circuit Court part of the process been removed?
This is a policy matter for Government. The removal of the Circuit Court was proposed by Government and approved by the Oireachtas with the enactment of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015. The mandate of the Tax Appeal Commission is to implement the new appeals process as set down in that Act.
In what circumstances, can a case be referred to the High Court?
A party to an appeal process who is dissatisfied with a determination of the Appeal Commissioners as being erroneous on a point of law may by notice in writing require the Commissioners to state and sign a Case Stated for the Opinion of the High Court.
Such written notice must be given to the Commissioners, and copied to any other party to the appeal, no later than 21 days from the date on which the determination has been notified to the parties, and must specify the particular respect in which the determination is alleged to be erroneous in law.
What is the budget of the Tax Appeals Commission for 2016?
The budget for the Commission as contained in the Revised Estimates Volume for 2016 is €1.44 million. This amount was approved by Dáil Éireann for 2016 as part of the Annual Estimates process.
MORE ABOUT THE COMMISSION
What is the term of office of the Appeal Commissioners?
There are currently two Appeal Commissioners in the Commission. Their term of office (7 years) will run until 2023. The Minister for Finance may appoint Commissioners to serve for a second seven year term.
How many staff are serving in the Tax Appeals Commission?
There are currently four administrative staff serving in support of the Commissioners. Further additions will take place shortly.
To whom do the Commissioners report?
Section 21 of the Act establishing the Commission provides that the Commissioners shall report to the Minister for Finance.
What are the reporting obligations contained in the new legislation?
The reporting obligations relate to the preparation and submission of an annual report. In addition, the Minister may require the commissioners to prepare and submit to him or her a report in relation to any matter relating to their activities as the Minister considers appropriate. Also, the Commissioners may from time to time submit a report to the Minister on their activities as they consider appropriate.
Where is the Commission based?
The Commission is based in Fitzwilton House, Wilton Place, Dublin 2 D02 FX04.
How do the new arrangements underpin the independence of the Tax Appeals Commission?
Section 10 of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015 specifically provides that the Commission and its members shall be independent in the performance of their functions. In addition, various provisions in the new Act give the Commissioners powers to manage cases more actively than in the past, thereby reinforcing the independent operation of the appeals process.
The Finance (Tax appeals) Act 2015 provides that the Appeal Commissioners may adopt Rules of Procedure in respect of their functions. Has this been done?
Yes, the Commissioner have adopted Rules of Procedure and these are available on the Commission website (www.taxappeals.ie).
Is the Tax Appeals Commission subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 2014?
Yes, the Freedom of Information Act applies to records held by the Commission. However, this is subject to statutory exemptions in relation to sensitive or personal information as set out in the FOI legislation.
Is there any provision for a review of the legislation?
This is policy matter for the Minister for Finance and the Government. To the extent that the Commissioners have discretion with regard to the procedures that they use, it is intended that these will be kept under review in the light of experience of their operation and they may be adjusted in due course in the light of this.
What is behind the reform of the tax appeals system?
This is policy matter for the Minister for Finance and the Government.
Has the Commission a Governance Framework?
Yes, a copy of the Governance Framework is available to view here. This document is a living document and will be modified to reflect further developments in the Commission over the coming months.
Last updated February 2017.