Covid debt freeze will put sheriffs out of business, Minister told

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Debt-collecting sheriffs warned the Government that the suspension of taxation enforcement during the Covid-19 pandemic threatened their endurance and that the closures of their offices would pb to accrued taxation defaults.

In letters sent to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, autarkic sheriffs, who trust connected referrals from the Revenue Commissioners and retrieve unpaid taxes for the State, raised concerns astir the viability of their businesses and the knock-on consequences if they were forced to close.

Sheriffs expressed fears with the Department of Justice successful letters dating backmost astir 2 years that the pandemic-related suspension of taxation enforcement from March 2020 threatened the aboriginal of their businesses.


They warned this would effect successful superior harm to the “enforcement infrastructure” that they accidental has been “the cornerstone of the taxation postulation system” since the nationwide strategy of Revenue sheriffs was established by the authorities successful 1986.

New figures published successful Revenue’s 2021 yearly study this week showed that sheriffs received conscionable 707 referrals from Revenue for the postulation of taxes valued astatine conscionable €17.7 cardinal for the entirety of past year, down from 72,697 successful 2019 valued astatine astir €421 million.

More than €3 cardinal successful Covid-19-related taxation debts person been “parked” nether a indebtedness warehousing strategy introduced by the Government to assistance businesses done the pandemic.

The Sheriffs’ Association, which represents the country’s 14 sheriffs, was told by Revenue astatine a gathering connected March 22nd past that mean enforcement would not resume until 2024.

In a missive sent 2 days later, Dublin metropolis Sheriff Joseph Burke, the association’s chairman, told the Minister that the existent watercourse of enactment from Revenue that funds the full sheriff strategy was “wholly inadequate” to money the cognition of their offices.

Sheriffs had received “little work” since the commencement of the pandemic and had survived connected the Government’s pandemic wage enactment schemes that ended connected April 30th, helium said.

Negative message

“The State present risks losing this important enforcement mechanics arsenic sheriffs offices are facing closure owed to their inability to concern themselves,” helium told Ms McEntee.

“Should a sheriff’s bureau close, it would undoubtedly nonstop a antagonistic connection to taxpayers and debtors. There would beryllium nonaccomplishment of the deterrent effect of having an operational sheriff’s bureau and determination is simply a hazard of accrued taxation default arsenic a effect of closure.”

John O’Malley, Revenue sheriff for Co Mayo, told the Minister successful a missive connected January 24th past that the “forced closure” of sheriffs’ offices were apt to hap crossed the State this year.

He said helium was atrocious to accidental Revenue had “effectively acceptable aside” portion of a contractual statement nether which it recognises that the sheriffs’operation requires a “minimum level of referrals” and volition usage its champion endeavours to guarantee “an capable level of referrals”.

“My bureau is present operating astatine a sustained nonaccomplishment and is present uneconomic arsenic a effect of Revenue’s argumentation to suspend enforcement. The yearly costs associated with moving my bureau is successful excess of €110,000 and this is earlier I gully immoderate wage for myself,” helium said.


Mr O’Malley told the Minister that the closure of his bureau would undoubtedly nonstop a precise antagonistic connection to taxpayers.

“There would beryllium an summation successful motivation hazard and determination would beryllium the nonaccomplishment of the deterrent effect of having an operational sheriff’s bureau successful the bailiwick,” helium said.

“Increased taxation default levels would beryllium an inevitable effect of closure and the optics of an enforcement limb of the State ceasing operations would beryllium highly undesirable.”

This would enactment Ireland’s estimation “as a destination for overseas nonstop concern astatine risk” due to the fact that of the effect of a apt cessation of backstage indebtedness enforcement and slope repossessions successful the Dublin and Cork bailiwicks presently engaged successful by 4 sheriffs successful those areas, helium said.

The correspondence was released to The Irish Times by the Department of Justice nether the Freedom of Information Act.

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