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Opposition cry foul over Revenue pensions 'mess-up'

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin demand immediate clarification on how 115,000 pensioners were told they may face extra tax.

Barry Cowen and Pearse Doherty have both criticised the government's handling of the pensions row.
Barry Cowen and Pearse Doherty have both criticised the government's handling of the pensions row.
Image: Laura Hutton / Mark Stedman, Photocall Ireland

OPPOSITION PARTIES have urged the government and the Revenue Commissioners to immediately clarify the circumstances under which 115,000 pensioners were told they may face a higher tax bill for 2012.

The calls came after the Revenue last night said it had identified 115,000 people who may be liable for additional taxes after it compared its records with those of the Department of Social Protection, and found that Revenue records had underestimated the amount a pensioner was receiving from the State.

This morning, a Revenue Commissioners spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of back-taxing pensioners whose income had been understated.

The news has prompted ire among older citizens’ groups, who say many of the pensioners being written to had never sought to underdeclare their pension income – and in many cases had turned out not to have any extra tax liability whatosever.

Fianna Fáil’s social protection spokesperson Barry Cowen said the data exchange between the Revenue Commissioners and the Department was a “gross mismanagement” and called on Michael Noonan to explain why pensioners were not given any notice of receiving warning letters.

“These 115,000 pensioners have essentially been labelled as tax cheats, despite the fact that vast majority of them had no idea their liabilities had been miscalculated. This has caused great distress and confusion among many of our most vulnerable older people.

Who in Government thought it was a good idea to land a letter telling pensioners they are not tax compliant on 115,000 doorsteps just days after Christmas without warning, explanation or clarity on what approach will be taken?

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty was similarly critical, saying the government’s handling of the situation was “shambolic”.

“First of all these people were told that they are liable for more tax in 2012. This morning a spokesperson from Revenue, speaking on RTÉ, didn’t rule out revenue pursuing these people for back payments over a period of six years causing further shock for these people.

And then by eleven o’clock they are told that they do not need to do anything. We need to see a clarifying statement from the Revenue department to make it clear what these pensioners need to do.

Read: Revenue not ruling out back tax on pensioners

More: 115,000 pensioners told: You’ll have to pay more tax>

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Gavan Reilly

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