Department of Finance warned number of jobs being supported by lucrative tax relief scheme for highly paid executives had “fallen sharply”

The number of jobs being supported through a lucrative tax relief scheme for highly paid multinational executives has “fallen sharply” according to an internal briefing for the finance minister.

The cost to the taxpayer had also more than trebled to €73,000 for each job that was being supported, which was described by officials as a “cause for concern”.

The submission – prepared for Minister Paschal Donohoe last autumn – said the cost per job through the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) had been just €23,000 in 2017, or less than a third of the rate in 2018.

Making comparisons with figures from years prior to that were “even less flattering” according to the Department of Finance document, which was released under FOI.

The scheme allows generous tax relief for executives moving to Ireland and was at one stage being used for aggressive “advanced tax planning” by some companies.

Eighteen people earning between €1 and €10 million had benefitted from the scheme in a single year, which lead to the introduction of a €1 million income cap in 2019.

Courts Service document storage contract was meant to deliver savings but cost almost €60,000 extra per year

A court contract for filing official records was supposed to deliver more than €80,000 in yearly savings but ended up costing the taxpayer an extra 33% annually.

A highly critical internal audit also found the Courts Service had been accidentally overcharged for two years, did not factor in delivery and collection fees, and may have awarded the contract to the wrong company.

It said this risked “legal and reputational consequences” and that if the Courts Service had fully understood the costs involved, the successful company would not have been awarded the contract in the first place.

The internal audit identified several “high risks” saying prices quoted in a tender document had not ultimately applied and “expected financial savings [were] not realised”.

It also said there was a lack of oversight and reporting within the Courts Service on the contract performance with accidental overcharging not identified for more than two years.

The audit also warned of potential breaches of data protection law and the National Archives Act because of a lack of consistent Courts Service policy on retention of records.

CCTV not “silver bullet” in dealing with fallout from notorious Viking Hoard horse doping case

Horse Racing Ireland management were told CCTV would not have been a “silver bullet” in a doping controversy but that it would “distort [their] message” if it was not addressed.

They were also told they needed to work on “honing those key messages” in dealing with the fallout from a high-profile nobbling case.

The horse Viking Hoard had tested positive for a fast-acting sedative at over 100 times the screening limit as part of an elaborate betting sting that ended up being linked back to a mystery individual with connections to match fixing.

The horse’s trainer Charles Byrnes was suspended for six months for leaving the horse unattended but has always insisted he had nothing to do with what transpired.

Records from Horse Racing Ireland show how the state agency used high-profile PR firm Teneo to deal with the controversy as senior officials were given mock interviews to “stress-test answers” they would give in media appearances.

Management at Dublin Airport asked IDA to make submission on new runway restrictions

Management at Dublin Airport made a plea to the IDA to make a planning submission on runway restrictions saying the support of the investment agency would be “absolutely crucial” to their cause.

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips wrote personally to IDA boss Martin Shanahan seeking his backing to ease operating restrictions on the airport’s new €320 million runway, which is due to open later this year.

Mr Philips said he hoped the IDA would make their own submission and included a list of recommended bullet points “to articulate” in it.

In a letter to Mr Shanahan, he wrote: “The support of the IDA during this process is absolutely crucial to the success of this application.

“We believe what we are proposing is fair, sensible and balanced for all stakeholders and will safeguard Ireland’s connectivity to global markets. We therefore would appreciate your written support during this process by means of a submission to the planning authority.”

The IDA were among more than at least 250 parties who made observations on the runway planning, including major airlines, political representatives, and local residents.

Planning conditions had specified the new runway could not be used between 11pm and 7am and that night-time operations be limited to at most 65 flights.

DAA, in their letter to the IDA, said these restrictions would have a “profound impact” on operations and undermine the vital role the runway could “play in Ireland’s recovery and future economic prospects”.

The press conference was “superb Motherajasus” – PR advice for the Department of Education on the Leaving Cert miscalculated grades saga

PR guru Terry Prone told the Department of Education that a press conference on errors in Leaving Cert grades had been “superb Motherajasus” and had helped quash any suggestion of being “jump started by [Labour leader] Alan Kelly”.

Ms Prone and her firm the Communications Clinic had been hired to help deal with the fallout from the debacle of miscalculated grades for the Leaving Cert.

The errors – affecting at least 8,000 grades – had been raised in the Dáil by Alan Kelly in dramatic fashion before they were made public by the department.

Internal correspondence from the Department of Education details how Ms Prone advised Education Minister Norma Foley on how to handle publicity around the miscalculations.

Ms Prone wrote: “The Minister might mildly point out, in response to any suggestions that she sat on it, that the level of support infrastructure for students (helpline etc) could not have been ready to go sooner than yesterday.

“But it WAS all ready yesterday, vitiating [undermining or spoiling] any suggestion of being jump-started by Alan Kelly.”

Ms Prone also cautioned about “formal verbosity” in one draft document which had the title Bloodyhell.doc and was sent with an email subject line of “Ok, here goes my attempt to become a true hate figure”.

Ministerial briefing warned of “serious implications” for Ireland’s economy from EU plans for country-by-country tax reporting

Planned EU rules for country-by-country tax reporting by multinationals would have “serious implications” for Ireland’s competitiveness and ability to attract investment to the country, a department briefing said.

The briefing said it was “strongly recommended” that Minister of State Robert Troy should make an intervention to oppose the tax changes at a public debate.

The EU wants the new law to force multinationals to report their tax payments and activities for each member state to increase transparency.

However, a Departmental briefing warned this would not benefit Ireland and was likely to impact investment from inside and outside the EU.

The brief said: “This proposal has serious implications for our competitiveness and ability to attract FDI [foreign direct investment] from both within and outside the EU, as countries including the US and Japan oppose publication of tax information.”

It also warned Minister Robert Troy of a possible conflict where he would be speaking against the change while it was being supported by Ireland’s EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

Access to this brief had originally been refused by the Department, but a redacted version was subsequently released following a request for internal review.

Tax demands sent to ex-wives and pandemic payment check errors: a database of Revenue data breaches from 2020

A final tax demand sent to an ex-wife, a Revenue official sent information on her former husband by accident, and a staff member’s exam results mistakenly sent to a third party were among 149 breaches recorded by the Revenue Commissioners last year.

Revenue said the majority of the breaches were caused by human error and the volume of such incidents had been low given the volume of data they deal with.

A detailed log of the incidents reveals a significant chunk of the incidents related to Covid-19 support payments.

There were 26 cases where a compliance check letter was sent to a company with an incorrect list of employees.

Another 7 cases were recorded where a compliance letter was sent to the wrong tax agent, according to a database provided by Revenue.

Other one-off incidents included one where a taxpayer’s medical receipts were sent to the wrong person and a breach where an email about a taxpayer’s audit was attached to an “unconnected third party’s correspondence”.

A breakdown of €674,000 in payments made through the Oireachtas’ special secretarial allowance

Ministers, TDs, and Senators spent more than €674,000 through a special allowance they can use for PR advice, consultancy, or secretarial assistance.

Among the payments since the last election were €6,154 to writer and actress Stefanie Preissner for public relations advice for Minister of State Anne Rabbitte.

A number of politicians hired family members through the allowance including Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley who paid his wife Emer €10,400 for secretarial assistance.

TD Aindrias Moynihan also paid his son, also called Aindrias, a total of €9,861 for secretarial assistance, according to records released by the Oireachtas.

The special secretarial allowance is available to Ministers, TDs, and Senators to cover the costs of consultancy, public relations, and IT support.

It can also be used to hire a secretarial assistant especially where TDs or Senators are looking for somebody to work for them temporarily.

The €674,719 in payments were made in the period between June of last year and this January.

A log of accidents and incidents recorded by the Courts Service including one man who tried to bring his dog to court

Bomb threats, a mystery insect bite, a defendant who headbutted a pane of glass, and a man who tried to bring his dog to court were among the accidents and incidents logged by the Courts Service last year.

Multiple breaches of Covid-19 restrictions involving members of the public and also members of the legal profession were also reported.

There were more than 100 events recorded in the Courts Service official estates management incident database for 2020, including a number of accidents involving judges.

One incident saw an altercation between court security staff at the public screening area at the entrance to the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.

“The person tried to bring a dog into the building in their satchel,” said a log of the incident. “[The security staff] would not permit this.”

In another case in the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ), a member of the public said a door to a smoking area had slammed shut on their foot.

At Trim Courthouse in Meath, a sinister incident was reported where a witness was on the receiving end of abuse.

The Courts Service log said: “A person who was sitting in the body of the court received abusive comments and threats from another person when they were coming back from the witness box.”

You can read the full database below.