An area that has continued to cause challenges and risks for businesses is the operation of Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT) and VAT.

The most common mistakes we see being made in this sector are by non-resident principal contractors who engage a subcontractor to carry out construction works in Ireland.

This article will focus on the most common pitfalls that we see occurring within this sector by non-resident principal contractors and the steps that can be taken to avoid making costly mistakes.

1. Compliance Obligations for Non-Resident Principal Contractors

When a non-resident principal contractor engages a subcontractor to carry out construction works in Ireland, the RCT system must be applied to payments made to the subcontractor.

The first potential pitfall for a non-resident principal contractor is not taking the reasonable care to familiarise themselves with their tax obligations under the RCT regime. In such a case, the non-resident principal contractor will eventually be contacted by Revenue, informing them of their failure to operate the RCT regime. This usually occurs following the commencement of the works in Ireland, at which point the mistakes have already been made and costly penalties can be imposed by Revenue.

As such, it is very important that a non-resident principal contractor is aware of their tax obligations prior to the commencement of any construction works in Ireland so that the necessary administrative steps can be taken to ensure that they are set up for the RCT system and fully compliant in operating RCT on payments to subcontractors.

The administrative steps to be taken by a non-resident principal contractor include registering for RCT on Revenue’s Online Service (ROS) and operating the RCT regime throughout the duration of the project in Ireland (further detail on this below).

2. Operation of the RCT System

Once a principal contractor is registered for RCT with Revenue, there are a number of steps that must be taken each time a principal contractor enters into a relevant contract with a subcontractor and each time a payment is made to the subcontractor. These steps are summarised as follows:

a. Contract Notification

  • The first step is to input a “Contract Notification” through Revenue’s online RCT system. A principal contractor must notify Revenue each time it enters into a new relevant contract with a subcontractor. The Principal will then receive a contract reference number and an indication of the applicable RCT deduction rate for the subcontractor.

b. Payment Notification

  • Before making a payment to a subcontractor, the principal must notify Revenue’s online eRCT system of the intention to make the payment and provide details to Revenue of the gross amount to be paid. This process is known as “Payment Notification”. This must be done for each payment made to the subcontractor.

c. Deduction Authorisation

  • Revenue will issue a deduction authorisation to the principle contractor which will specify the rate and amount of tax to be deducted from the payment to the subcontractor. This process is known as “Deduction Authorisation”. The principle is required to provide a copy of this authorisation to the subcontractor.

d. Deduction Summary (RCT Return)

  • Revenue’s eRCT system prepares a pre-populated period end return known as a “Deduction Summary (i.e. RCT Return)”, which is based on the deduction authorisations issued during the period. The due date for payment of the RCT withheld is the 23rd day after the end of the period covered by the return.

The most common pitfall we see occurring in practice are inconsistencies in notifying Revenue of each and every payment made to a subcontractor by the principal contractor. This can be a costly mistake for the principal contractor as the penalties Revenue can impose for failure to operate the RCT system in this way range between 3% to 35%, depending on the RCT deduction rate applicable to the subcontractor.

To put this into perspective, if a subcontractor has been assigned a 35% RCT deduction rate and the principal contractor makes a payment of €25,000 to the subcontractor without first notifying Revenue of the payment and deducting the appropiate withholding tax, Revenue can impose a penalty of €8,750 (i.e. 35% of the invoice value) on the principal contractor for its failure to operate the RCT system.

These penalties can become very costly for a business where they fail to operate the RCT system on high value invoices.

3. Operation of RCT and Reverse Charge VAT

Typically, VAT is normally charged by the person supplying the goods or services. However, under the RCT regime, the person receiving the goods or services (the principal contractor) calculates the VAT due on the invoice from the subcontractor and pays it directly to Revenue. This is referred to as Reverse Charge VAT and it is common area in which mistakes are made by non-resident principal contractors.

The following should occur when a subcontractor invoices a principal contractor for construction services that are subject to RCT:

  1. The subcontractor raises an VAT invoice with the zero rate of VAT applied;
  2. The invoice should include the VAT registration number of the principal contractor and include the narrative “VAT on this supply to be accounted for by the principal contractor”;
  3. The principal contractor calculates the VAT due on the invoice value and records it as VAT on sales (Box T1) on its VAT return. Where it is entitled to do so, the principal contractor can claim a simultaneous VAT input credit (Box T2) on the VAT return, thus resulting in a VAT neutral position.

Although the RCT system can seem like a heavy administrative burden on a business, it can be managed relatively smoothly with the proper administration. Our tax specialists look after all administrative issues regarding RCT, provide effective advice and answer questions you may have regarding RCT.

Should you require any assistance, please contact us.

Personal Tax

  • Cuts to the two middle rates of Universal Social Charge – 2.5% rate cut to 2%; 5% rate cut to 4.75%.

  Incomes of €13,000 or less are exempt from the USC. Otherwise, rates are as follows:

Income €                      Rate

0- 12,012                          0.5%

12,012 – 19,372               2%

19,372 – 70,044               4.75%

70,044 +                            8%

Self-employed income in excess of €100,000 at 3%.
The USC relief for medical card holders is being extended fro another two years. Medical card holders and individuals aged 70 years and over whose aggregate income does  not exceed €60,000 will now pay maximum rate of USC of 2%.
Marginal tax rates on incomes up to €70,044 reduced from 49% to 48.75%.

  • Income Tax Bands – the threshold which an individual will pay tax at the 40% rate of income tax will rise from its current level of €33,800 by €750 to €34,550.
  • The Home Carer Tax Credit will increase from €1,100 to €1,200.
  • The Earned Income Credit will increase from €950 to €1,150.
  • There will be a tapered extension to mortgage interest relief for remaining recipients – owner occupiers who took out qualifying mortgages between 2004-2012. 75% of the existing relief will be continued into 2018, 50% in 2019 and 25% in 2020. The relief will cease entirely from 2021.
  • A new deduction for pre-letting expenses of a revenue nature incurred on a property that has been vacant for a period of 12 months is being introduced. The cap on the expenditure is €5,000 per property and the relief will be subject to a clawback if the property is withdrawn from the rental market within 4 years. The relief is available for qualifying expenses incurred up to the end of 2021.
  • A share based remuneration incentive – Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) is being introduced to facilitate the use of share based remuneration by unquoted small to medium enterprises to retain key employees. Gains arising to employees on the exercise of KEEP shares will be subject to capital gains tax as opposed to the current liability to income tax, USC and PRSI on exercise. This incentive will be available for qualifying share options granted between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2023.

VAT

  • Standard rate of VAT will remain at 23%.
  • The reduced 9% rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, introduced in 2011, will remain.
  • The rate of VAT on sun-bed services is being increased from 13.5% to 23% from 1 January 2018 in line with the government national cancer strategy.
  • A charities VAT compensation scheme is being introduced in 2019 in respect of VAT expenses incurred in 2018. Charities will be entitled to a refund of a proportion of their VAT costs based on the level of non-public funding they receive.

Stamp Duty

  • The rate of stamp duty on non-residential property will increase from 2% to 6%.
  • In relation to commercial land purchased for the development of housing, there will be the introduction of a stamp duty refund scheme. The refund will be subject to conditions, including a requirement that developers will have to commence the relevant development within 30 months of the land purchase.
  • Consanguinity stamp duty relief at 1% for inter-family farm transfers is extended for a further three years.
  • The exemption for young trained farmers from stamp duty on agricultural land transactions continues.
  • The vacant site levy will increase from 3% to 7% in the second and subsequent years. In practical terms, the owner of a vacant site on the register who does not develop their land in 2018 will pay the levy of 3% in 2019 and then become liable to the increased rate of 7% from 1 January 2019.

Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisitions Tax

  • There is a change to the 7-year CGT relief that will allow the owners of qualifying assets to sell those assets between the fourth and seventh anniversaries of their acquisition and still enjoy full relief from CGT on any chargeable gains.
  • The leasing of agricultural land for solar panels is to be classified as qualifying agricultural activity for the purposes of CAT agricultural relief and CGT retirement relief. This initiative is subject to the panels no more than covering 50% of the total farm holding.
  • The life time thresholds for capital acquisitions tax remain unchanged.

Corporation Tax

  • Confirmation of the 12.5% rate of tax.
  • The deduction for capital allowances for intangible assets, and any related interest expense, will be limited to 80% of the relevant income arising from intangible assets in an accounting period.
  • Accelerated capital allowances for energy efficient equipment is being extended until the end of 2020.

Other Measures

  • The excise duty on a packet of 20 cigarettes is being increased by 50 cents with a pro-rate increase on other tobacco products, and an additional 25c on roll your own tobacco. This will take effect from midnight on 10 October 2017.
  • A sugar tax is to be introduced on the 1 April 2018. A tax of 30c will apply to drinks with a sugar content of 8 grams or more per 100ml. A tax of 20c will apply to drinks with a sugar content of between 5 grams and 8 grams per 100ml. These levels are consistent with the rates being introduced in the UK in April 2018 and Ireland’s sugar tax will commence at the same time as the UK.
  • A 0% benefit-in-kind (BIK) is being introduced for electric vehicles for a period of one year. Electricity used in the workplace for charging vehicles will also be exempt from benefit in kind.
  • State Pension will rise by €5 per week with effect from the last week in March 2018.
  • All other weekly social welfare payments to increase by €5 per week, including the carer’s allowance, disability allowance and jobseeker’s benefit and allowance.
  • Prescription charges are to be reduced for everyone with a medical card under the age of 70 from €2.50 to €2 per item and the monthly cap for prescription charges decreased from €25 to €20.
  • There will be a reduction in the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme from €144 to €134.
  • In order to assist small and medium businesses prepare for Brexit, a Brexit Loan Scheme will be introduced. A loan scheme of €300m, will be available at competitive rates to SMEs, to assist them with short term working capital requirements.

If you would like further information, please contact our Tax Team.


View our Budget 2018 Analysis

Download a PDF of the key highlights from Budget 2018

 

 

 

Budget 2018 was delivered by Minister Donohoe in the continuing context of an Irish economy in good shape and with strong and sustainable future growth predicted.  However, with potential Brexit headwinds forecast and being mindful of not returning to the days of giveaway budgets (remember them?), he delivered a constructed ‘balancing act’ that didn’t significantly affect many.

So how does this budget affect your disposable income?

The reductions in the rates of the USC will benefit everyone with particular focus on middle incomes. The point at which the marginal tax rate kicks in was increased by €750 to €34,550. For the self-employed, the earned income credit increases from €950 to €1,150.

Pensioners and those in receipt of social welfare payments will also benefit with an increase of €5 from March 2018. The Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients has remained at 85%.

Prescription charges are further reduced to €2 and this charge now applies to medical card holders of all ages.

However, if you are partial to a cigarette whilst sipping your fizzy drink, then prepare from tomorrow to pay an extra 50c on a pack of 20 cigarettes and to start paying Sugar Tax of 20c/30c per litre from April 2018.

Housing and other matters

With the Minister noting the “corrosive impact of homelessness” on the State in his speech, he announced an allocation of €1.8 billion for housing next year, which he said would help to fund the building of 3,800 new social homes next year.

Other measures to increase the supply of housing/land, include the tax deductibility of pre-letting expenses, the reduction of the CGT ‘hold period’ from 7 years to 4 years and the increase vacant site tax rate from 3% to 7%.

However, the rationale of raising the Stamp Duty rate three-fold to 6% on commercial property, apart from funding many other tax cuts/spending increases, appears to fly in the face of the residential property ‘supply measures’.

The Budget also continues the commitment to repair the State’s public services with increases in the number of teachers and guards, and significant additional funding being made available for education and health. The litmus test will be whether anyone will experience a notable improvement in services during 2018.

The tourism sector will continue to benefit from the reduced rate of VAT at 9%. The agri-food sector, in particular, will benefit from the introduction of a Brexit Loan Scheme.

Foreign Direct Investment

The Minister took the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland’s corporation tax rate at 12.5%. This is and will remain the central plank of Ireland’s FDI offering. However, restricting the deduction for capital allowance and interest on Intangible Assets to 80% of relevant income is a backwards step.

Overall, Budget 2018 is the final (Balancing) Act in Ireland achieving a projected deficit by end of 2018 at near 0% of GDP.

It may take you until then though to have worked out if this was a good Budget for you or your business!

Edward Murphy
Partner and Head of Tax Services
edward.murphy@crowleysdk.ie

 

 

 

If you would like further information, please contact our Tax Team.


View the key highlights from Budget 2018

Download a PDF of our Budget 2018 Analysis