Fianna Fáil has called for urgent clarification on the possibility that 115,000 pensioners may be liable for backdated taxes over a number of years due to an under calculation of their liabilities.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen has criticised what he describes as the “gross mismanagement” of informing 115,000 pensioners that they now owe the revenue money for tax liabilities, and has called for clarity on the suggestion that the demands may be backdated for a number of years. The Fianna Fáil frontbench spokesperson also called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to explain when he became aware of the issue and why he did not move to explain to pensioners what was happening before tax demands began landing on doorsteps.
Deputy Cowen commented, “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? Questions must be asked about who in Government knew this was coming and why they did not insist on a proper public information campaign before issuing the letters. At a time when people are already concerned about how they will manage through the year ahead, terrifying them with the label of tax defaulter shows a complete lack of empathy and understanding. Did the Revenue Commissioner inform the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that the mailout was about to take place? If so, why did he not believe it was necessary to inform those affected? If not, why not?
“I am calling for an immediate information campaign to clear up all of this confusion and spell out exactly what this means for pensioners, including immediate clarity on whether they intend to backdate the claims. I am also calling on the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and the Revenue Commissioners to outline what efforts are being made to allow any extra payments to be made on a phased and manageable basis. Many of the older people affected are in nursing homes or are heavily dependent on every penny of they get in their pension. They have spent a lifetime paying the taxes they were asked to and are deeply concerned about how they will pay the extra liabilities arising from this miscalculation. The very least they can expect now is clarity on what they are being asked to do.”