Covid-aid firms who also paid out dividends ‘should meet staff tax bills’, says Labour’s Ged Nash

A call has been made for companies that got Government financial support during the lockdowns to cover the tax bills of their workers.

abour finance spokesperson Ged Nash has urged Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to bin their tax debts and recoup the money from companies that were flush enough to pay dividends after getting Government help.

Close to €400m in wage supports was paid during the pandemic to companies that also paid dividends to their shareholders.

The call for companies to bail out their staff comes after the Irish Independent revealed that hundreds of thousands of people have yet to contact Revenue to sort out how they will pay tax owed on wage subsidies and Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) they received during lockdowns.

Close to 300,000 taxpayers who received PUP and Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) payments have not filed a tax return, according to Revenue.

Collectively they owe €219m in taxes. Some of those who got the TWSS wage subsidy will be facing hefty tax bills of up to €2,500. 

Mr Nash said that in a recent parliamentary reply, M r Donohoe and Revenue confirmed that 866 companies that paid dividends to their shareholders had received €396mn of taxpayer assistance to pay their wage bills.

“Yet less than €40m has been repaid to date. This is unacceptable. The outstanding €356m owed by companies dwarfs the €219m Covid-19 tax bill being foisted on working people,” Mr Nash said.

No income tax, PRSI or Universal Social Charge (USC) was deducted at source from TWSS payments, which were paid to employers to support workers’ wages. PUP payments had no income tax deducted, like other social welfare payments.

This means the people who received these payments have to make their own arrangements with Revenue on how they are going to pay the tax due on TWSS and PUP payments.

Revenue said it estimates that 279,000 ‘taxpayer units’ have yet to file a tax return.

A taxpayer unit includes single people, couples with one earner, jointly assessed couples or civil partners.

Revenue is likely to automatically reduce the tax credits of these people unless they make arrangements to pay the tax.

Mr Nash said it was “completely unfair and simply shocking” that the Government and the Revenue Commissioner are chasing relatively small sums of cash from workers hardest hit by the pandemic.

He said companies that got the TWSS for their workers, and its replacement, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), “got away scot-free with paying handsome dividends to high-rolling shareholders”. EWSS replaced the TWSS. EWSS payments were taxed at source, unlike TWSS payments.

Mr Nash said it showed double standards that Revenue has ended checks on profitable firms that paid dividends while receiving subsidies, yet is chasing working people for a comparatively small sum.

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