The Revenue Commissioners should reopen their public offices and extend their helpline hours to assist taxpayers with queries, according to Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne.
Senator Byrne, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Finance, raised the matter following calls to her office from constituents who have had difficulty accessing help from Revenue officials in a timely manner.
Senator Byrne said: “I’ve spoken with individual taxpayers and business owners alike who have been unable to contact Revenue in a timely manner. One constituent only got through to their local PAYE jobs and pensions helpline after two days of calling.
“The helpline is currently open in the morning only, and it is very challenging to get through to an operator due to the high volumes of calls.
“Taxpayers have been directed to the Revenue Online Service (ROS) facility, but if a query is of a technical nature related to help to buy or LPT and other property services, it can be difficult to get the issue resolved efficiently without talking directly to someone.
“This is the busiest time of the year for tax filing and yet taxpayers cannot access the Revenue offices in person. Meanwhile taxpayers are also left waiting a number of days if they submit an enquiry through the online portal.
“This is both inconvenient and time-consuming for customers who have taxation queries, are applying for mortgage relief or who want to claim tax relief on a range of expenses.
“New and used cars need to be registered via the ROS facility. One business manager told me that queries must be submitted online and generally an automated response advises that Revenue will respond within 20 working days. This is inconvenient for business owners who then have to advise customers that they could be waiting up to one month for an update on their car registration.
“Revenue closed their public offices at the start of the pandemic to minimise the spread of Covid-19. However, the removal of public health guidelines almost two months ago allowed a return to physical attendance in workplaces on a phased basis.
“Other public services and private businesses have returned to face-to-face engagement with customers. Revenue needs to do the same – this is necessary for those who have additional needs, cannot access ROS or would prefer to have their query dealt with in person.
“Providing virtual appointments is a welcome development from Revenue but this should be in parallel with offices opening, not instead of.
“I intend to raise this matter in the Seanad and have submitted a number of queries to the Revenue Commissioners on turnaround times for responding to queries, and when and if they intend to reopen their offices to the public now that all Covid restrictions have been lifted,” Senator Byrne concluded.