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Exchequer Returns March 2017 - Peter Vale commentary

Peter Vale Peter Vale

The exchequer figures for March are overall a slightly disappointing, and worrying, set of numbers.

Perhaps the most concerning figure is corporation tax, which has been the star performer in recent times. Corporation tax receipts are significantly behind both forecast figures and the 2016 equivalent, with no obvious explanation for the shortfall. So while the key months for corporation tax receipts are later in the year, the early signs are a cause for concern. This is particularly so as robust corporation tax returns were seen as a buffer against any slippage elsewhere.

The returns for March are also behind target but overall the figures for the first three months of the year show VAT receipts running significantly ahead of 2016, albeit still running behind target on a cumulative basis.

Income tax figures are still surprisingly light despite the healthy employment data. The increase over the first months of 2016 is running at a modest 1.4%, which is 3.9% behind the expected take for 2017.

So overall the figures do give rise for concern, with the corporation tax figures likely to be particularly closely watched in coming months.

On the more positive side, and perhaps of relevance to future corporation tax receipts sustainability, the likelihood of fundamental US tax reform that may have adversely impacted Ireland has significantly reduced in recent weeks, with the failure of the Obamacare repeal making it difficult for the US to fund the expected tax cuts. While US tax reform of some sort is still likely, the aspects of the original proposals that had most potential to damage Ireland now look much less likely to form part of the final package.