The Department of Finance today released its Annual Taxation Report, which reviews the 2020 fiscal performance and considers underlying trends in the figures which will have implications for future fiscal policy.

Despite the pandemic, tax receipts in 2020 were only 3.6% behind 2019. Indeed, if tax liabilities that taxpayers chose to warehouse in 2020 are included, tax receipts in 2020 were almost identical to 2019, which was a remarkable end result.

The report contains some interesting observations regarding the progressivity of our income tax system and the impact on tax receipts. As many of those who lost their jobs during COVID were lower earners, there was only a minor impact on income tax receipts.

The report notes that the progressivity of our income tax regime means that we are dependent on a relatively small cohort of income tax payers for the bulk of our income tax receipts. A broadening of the tax base would bring more taxpayers within the tax net and reduce the shock impact of an outflow of high-income earners, for example, as a result of FDI outflow.

While a broadening of the income tax base has been noted before, it is likely to be politically challenging as it would bring more taxpayers within the tax net. As a result, despite its merits, there has been little action to broaden the tax base in recent years.

The report also notes the threat to future corporation tax receipts as a result of further global tax reforms, which would see some profits diverted to other jurisdictions. 

It is incredibly difficult to predict the impact of the proposed global changes on our future corporate tax receipts, not least because much of the important finer detail has yet to be agreed. While not noted in the report, it is also possible that corporate tax receipts might increase in the future, if for example we are obliged to increase our corporate tax rate to 15% and there is no significant outflow of FDI as a result. The expiration of certain intellectual property tax allowances could also see Ireland’s corporate tax revenues increase in future years.

In short, with so many unknowns, it is a challenging task to predict the trajectory of future corporate tax receipts.

Overall, the trends we saw emerging towards the end of 2020 have continued into 2021, with income tax and VAT continuing to outperform and corporation tax receipts remaining strong.

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