Fine Gael Meath West TD and Chair of the Oireachtas Jobs Committee, Damien English, has secured the support of the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, to set up an informal working group to tackle the black economy. Deputy English has suggested that the group could include representatives from the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Finance and members of the Oireachtas.
“The Small Firms Association last year estimated that the black economy is worth about €6 billion annually, and accounts for up to 14% of GDP. This means a huge section of the economy is operating below the radar, without the application of regulation or taxation. This is having a negative impact on legitimate retailers and businesspeople and is stifling our economic recovery.
“I have called on Minister Noonan to consider setting up an informal working group to prioritise policy development in this area. In my view, it should include representatives from the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Finance and members of the Oireachtas. I am pleased that Minister Noonan has agreed that this could be useful, and that his officials will be liaising with the Jobs Committee to allow for the group’s establishment.
“The Jobs Committee held had a series of hearings, as well as a number of regional meetings, on the issue over the past 18 months. From this engagement, it is clear that the black market destroys sales in compliant business and can make jobs vulnerable. We have received detailed assessments and views on illicit trade and the impact of the black economy on Irish business across a number of sectors. It will be encouraging to the legitimate business and retail sector in Ireland that Minister Noonan is willing to progress the issue through an informal working group structure.
“Revenue also chairs a working group, known as the Hidden Economy Monitoring Group (HEMG), which includes representatives from employer and business organisations, trade unions and other Government Departments and agencies. It allows the various stakeholders to exchange views on the effectiveness of measures to combat the hidden economy. It is important that this works on a local, as well as national, level.
“The Minister has assured me that regional and sectoral liaison groups have been established to facilitate greater local interaction between business and the relevant Government Departments and agencies. This allows local business organisations to feed useful information to Revenue about activity in the black market, but I understand that Revenue has been disappointed at the low level of information it is receiving.
“I look forward to hearing further from the Department of Finance on this issue. We cannot continue to allow black market operators to erode our economic recovery.”