Tax deadlines are approaching – get ready to pay and/or file returns

For gifts and inheritances then please note that where a valuation date for Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) occurred between 1 September 2015 and 31 August 2016, the pay and file deadline is 31 October 2016.

Extended deadline 

Where the taxpayer or his/her agent is both paying and filing online through ROS, the pay and file deadline is extended to Thursday 10 November 2016.

 

On the 11th March last, Irish Revenue announced an extension to the ROS return filing and tax payment date for certain self-assessment income tax customers and for customers liable to Capital Acquisitions Tax [CAT].

For customers who file the 2015 Form 11 return and make the appropriate payment through ROS for:

  • Preliminary Tax for 2016,
  • Income Tax balance due for 2015,

the due date is extended to Thursday, 10th November 2016

For beneficiaries who received gifts or inheritances with valuation dates in the year ended 31st August 2016 who make a CAT return and the appropriate payment through ROS, the due date is also extended to Thursday, 10th November 2016.

To qualify for the extension, customers must both pay and file through ROS. Where only one of these actions is completed through ROS, the extension does not apply and the required date to submit both returns and payments is no later than 31st October 2016.

Additionally, for PAYE customers who are required by Revenue to file a Form 12 for 2015 and who opt to use the ‘e’ version, the due date is also extended to Thursday, 10th November 2016.

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Tips on choosing a counsellor

Here’s some helpful tips on sourcing a counsellor;

Do your research

Use a reputable website e.g. www.iacp.ie to begin your search. The IACP (Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) is well known with a formal code of Conduct and Ethics, a Complaints Committee and a minimum requirement of Standard Level 8 for practitioners.

  1. Check if the person you choose has the specialisation you require e,g. anxiety, bereavement, stress, depression, relationship difficulties, addiction etc
  2. Have a look at the practitioner’s own website. Phone to see if you like the sound of their voice as this is crucial for a one-to-one relationship. Some counsellors are now using Skype so if this is your preferred way of working this is another avenue to explore, even live chat is a possible option.
  3. Find out which model of counselling they use. Often a counsellor will use a mixture of styles but may favour a particular theoretical approach e.g. Transactional Analysis.

What’s involved

Just to reassure you, lying down on a couch in a darkened room is no longer required. The idea behind it was that the practitioner could not see your face and you could not see theirs to give a degree of anonymity.

It is all about connection, relationship, feeling safe and being heard while being treated with respect and empathy. Remember, you are seeking someone to support you in a time of crisis or change. The words counselling and psychotherapy are used interchangeably. Both incorporate the giving of attention and respect in a confidential relationship, while providing a space to explore, discover and clarify ways of living better.

A good counsellor should make a few things very clear from the outset:

  • their fee (may be free or discounted for initial consultation),
  • cancellation policy,
  • confidentiality requirements,
  • their ethical framework,
  • number of sessions, and
  • review policy.

Remember it is very much about gut instinct but don’t stick with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, reminds you of someone you don’t like or whose voice grates. Try the person out, if you don’t feel a rapport, don’t feel obliged to continue.

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Revenue is getting greater yields from inheritance and gift tax

According to The Journal.ie, there has been a massive jump in inheritance tax takings, and nieces and nephews are getting the brunt of it.

New figures provided by Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath show that the yield from Capital Acquisitions Tax, which is applied to gifts and inheritances, has increased by over 65% since 2011.

The amount that a person might have to pay out depends on the relationship between the person inheriting and the deceased.

A spouse or civil partner is required to pay no tax.

For all other beneficiaries, a tax-free threshold amount is afforded, after which Capital Acquisitions Tax has to be paid.

 

In 2015 the largest category – which includes nieces and nephews – amounted to 33% of inheritance cases.

Figures show the tax take for this category jumped from €121.7 million in 2010 to €183.2 million in 2015.

Gifts and inheritances in the category known as “strangers in blood” (category three) amounted to 23% of all cases. This jumped from €34.8 million in 2010 to €58.9 million in 2015.

Tax take for this group of parents to children more than doubled between the years of 2010 to 2015 from €76.5 million to €156.1 million.

You can read the full article here – http://www.thejournal.ie/inheritance-tax-2943004-Aug2016/

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How much compensation will I get for my injury

In any personal injury claim, from a car accident to a slip and fall case, there are two main categories of “damages” available to the injured person (“damages” is just a legalese term for compensation/money that the “at-fault party” must pay you for). These are your economic or “special” damages, and your non-economic or “general” damages.

“Special damages” are all of the easily calculable losses arising from your accident or injury — your medical bills, your lost income because of time missed at work, your property damage, travelling expenses and any other out-of-pocket losses.

“General damages” is the money given for pain and suffering up to now and into the future, which means discomfort and physical pain, but also emotional distress, anxiety, and stress that is linked to the accident and your injuries.

In a personal injury case, the compensation awarded to a winning plaintiff after a trial is based on these types of damages. It follows that a settlement reached out of court should be based on similar factors, but how do you put a value on your pain?

Well, it’s not an exact science. The Injuries Board does have a calculator, which the |Courts are supposed to follow. Use this guide with caution ! The link is =

http://www.injuriesboard.ie/eng/How-to-make-a-claim/Estimate-your-claim/

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Daddies will get time off work for newly born babies after 1st September 2016

Before 2016, employers were not obliged to grant male employees paternity leave (either paid or unpaid) following the birth of their child.

The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 introduced statutory paternity leave of 2 weeks together with a new Paternity Benefit. The legislation allows new fathers to start the combined package of paternity leave and Paternity Benefit at any time within the first 6 months following birth or adoption of a child. The provisions apply to births and adoptions on or after 1 September 2016. You must notify your employer that you intend to take paternity leave and of your intended dates no later than 4 weeks before your leave. You must provide proof of the expected date of birth of your child.

Some employers, (for example, the civil service), provide a period of paid leave from work for male employees following the birth or adoption of their child. Fathers employed in the civil service are entitled to a period of special (paternal) leave of 3 days with pay in respect of children born on or after 1 January, 2000 or for children adopted after 1 January 2000.

The employee usually applies for this leave in writing before the birth or adoption. Arrangements where employers provide this type of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child are the result of negotiation and agreement reached between the employer and employee. These arrangements are not covered by employment law so if an employer agrees to provide time off to an employee as paternal leave for a specified period (either with or without pay), it is entirely discretionary.

Male employees may also be entitled to parental leave. Parental leave entitles both parents who qualify to take a period of up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave from employment in respect of children up to 8 years of age.

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Central Bank of Ireland’s latest SME report

 

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

  • Annualised quarterly gross new lending to non-financial, non-real-estate SMEs in Q1 2016 is 4.8% higher than Q1 2015 and 38% higher than Q1 2014. The SME lending market continues to be highly concentrated – in the latest quarter, the combined market share (new lending) of the three main banks is 95%
  • The stock of SME credit shows further declines and has reduced 5.3% since the last report. Declines are due to a number of factors, including repayments outstripping new lending, revaluations and bank loan sales. Survey evidence shows that debt-to-turnover ratios are declining and the share of SMEs with no debt is increasing.
  • Loan performance is improving – at year-end 2015, 26% of SME outstanding stock was in default, down from 41% in 2013. The share of loans transitioning to default (six-monthly basis) has also improved and is currently at 1.8%.
  • Interest rates on non-financial corporation loans under €250,000 (proxy for SME lending rates) remain high relative to euro area averages.
  • The share of SMEs applying for bank credit has declined from 30% to 26% since the last report. Declines are observed across all SME size categories, but are particularly large for Medium SMEs. Loan and overdraft application rates are lower than euro area averages.
  • Rejection rates show further declines. Across all finance types, the rejection rate has declined from 15% to 11% since the last report. Rejection rates are now in line with euro area averages.
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lawyers call on EU to fund acute need for legal aid on the borders of the EU

Last month, the Law Society of Ireland and the Bar of Ireland have announced their joint support of “European Lawyers in Lesvos”, a legal aid initiative in support of refugees engulfed in Greece’s ongoing migrant crisis.

A joint project of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV), it has been developed to provide additional legal supports to the asylum process in Lesvos and to assist current and future asylum seekers arriving on the island.

Chairman of the CCBE’s Migration Law Working Group and Member of The Bar of Ireland David Conlan Smyth SC said, “Upholding the rule of law and access to justice are central tenets of the legal profession, which in this context should mean access to a lawyer for all asylum seekers to receive individual advice about their legal options. The legal professions across Europe are cooperating to assist the Greek Bars to provide much needed legal assistance during this unprecedented crisis. Lawyers from all over Europe will provide their services in Lesvos on a pro bono basis.”

Director General of the Irish Law Society, Ken Murphy said, “The Law Society and Council of The Bar of Ireland are acutely aware of the need for legal aid in places such as Lesvos, which are ‘hotspots’ in the current migrant crisis. Access to justice, legal advice and human rights protection are crucial for those arriving at Europe’s borders in a particularly vulnerable position. The legal help provided as part of this initiative will make all the difference for people seeking to start a new life in Europe.”

However, Mr Murphy stressed that, “The acute need for legal aid in Lesvos and elsewhere on the borders of the EU cannot be met through funding from the legal profession. This need must be funded by the EU itself in the interest of justice and the rule of law.”

Solicitors and barristers in Ireland have come together to contribute €10,000 to this vital project which will fund a number of international lawyers to travel to Lesvos to give legal assistance to asylum seekers.

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HELPING VULNERABLE PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS

The cornerstones of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 https://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2015/a6415.pdf (the Act) are the provisions on the functional approach to decision making capacity ( s.3 of the Act) and the guiding principles which are to apply in relation to any interventions under the Act (s.8 of the Act).

These two hugely important provisions are already enshrined in common law and best practice but have been given statutory effect and will become statutory obligations upon the commencement of the 2015 Act. In the meantime, people should be aware that there is a presumption in common law that every adult has the capacity to make a decision unless the contrary is clearly indicated and that the High Court in Fitzpatrick v K (No. 2) [2008] IEHC stated that decision-making capacity is to be defined on a functional or decision specific basis. Capacity is to be assessed by solicitors on the client’s ability to understand the nature and consequences of a decision in the context of available choices at the time the decision is being made. Solicitors/Carers/ Family/ Guardians should not make across-the-board assessments of capacity but should treat decision-making capacity as issue specific and time specific. The assessment of capacity to make a decision is a legal test.

This functional approach is also contained in:

  • HSE National Consent Policy (see Chapter 5 – Has the service user capacity to make the decision?) and
  • the Medical Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners (7th edition 2009 and 8th edition 2016 – see Chapter 3, Part 10 – Capacity to Consent).

International human rights standards require that a person is supported and assisted to maximise his or her decision-making abilities. We should ensure, in particular when dealing with vulnerable clients, that all practical steps are taken to permit, encourage and facilitate a client to make a decision prior to any determination that the person does not have decision-making capacity and that only necessary steps are taken to intervene with a person’s decision-making.

A person should not be considered unable to make a decision in respect of any matter merely because they have made or are likely to make an unwise decision – however, in this context, it is very important to ensure that the client has a full understanding of the risks and an ability to weigh up the information relevant to the decision.

If an enduring power of attorney is registered, attorneys should ensure, where appropriate, that the donor of the enduring power of attorney be permitted and encouraged to participate in any decision affecting him/her as donor. This is a requirement under the Powers of Attorney Act 1996 and under the 2015 Act when commenced.

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Will solicitors and lawyers be replaced by computers ?

Recently, at Chancery Lane, London, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by UK Law Society President on the future of technology and the Law. The following is an extract of some of the points made by him :-

“Artificial intelligence is not only around us but it is part of us

Better, faster, more productive… these used to be words to describe what we wanted from our internet broadband connection.

Now they describe what we expect not only from all our products and services but also from each other. The expectations that we have from the world and the world has from us are dynamic, ever-changing and transforming at speed.

By combining a basket of different technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly seen as the answer to these unprecedented expectations and needs:

  • Siri, on your iPhone, is artificial intelligence
  • Anti-lock brakes in your car, learning the road conditions is artificial intelligence
  • Amazon’s recommendations on things that you might like is artificial intelligence

AI is all around us. Complicated and repetitive tasks are better performed by computer algorithms and mechanisms than by the human mind. The margin of error is narrower, the work is done more quickly and the training required is minimal.

Around the world the justice and legal systems have started to embrace the use of technology and the benefits of artificial intelligence. Data analytics are used, for example, to help predict crime and shape social policy.

Firms all around the world have improved the way they conduct legal research by using systems like ROSS. Developed by IBM, it is a tool which allows legal practitioners to use natural language and ask questions, rather than use keywords. ROSS then provides citations and suggests topical readings from a variety of sources.

The uses of artificial intelligence do not stop there, however. I recently looked at an app that:

  • tracks how many steps we take
  • tracks how many hours of sleep we have, and even
  • tracks our heartbeats.

We are living in a world in which we have become part of the app.

Our phones and gadgets seem to know us better than we know ourselves. They can even pass judgement on our lifestyle choices, such as congratulating us when we hit a certain fitness target. Mine has broken, as it seems to have forgotten to congratulate me…

We must face the fact that artificial intelligence will become more entrenched in our lives. There is a correlative duty for us as solicitors to scan the horizon, think of the consequences of its uses and, where needed, we must act.

What are the consequences?

There is a wealth of research on the ethical consequences of artificial intelligence. However, I just want to focus on the legal effects that result from this new use of technology.

Use of data

Artificial intelligence relies heavily on the use of personal and corporate data for all its practical applications. This inevitably raises serious issues of privacy and data protection. How will ‘big data’ – such as your search engine history, your online banking, your medical history – be collected, be used, and stored? For what purposes can that data be accessed and by whom? Who is responsible for keeping it safe? How will we handle global data breaches across different jurisdictions?

There is some domestic and emerging international legislation on data protection, however, it is limited and reactive. The legal profession has a responsibility to start answering these questions now and to work together with policy makers and legislators to build a robust framework with appropriate safeguards.

Tort and accountability

Corporate technology giants, software developers and computer programmers are leading on innovation and setting the pace of a new world order.

Google estimates that in less than five years, there will be driverless cars on the streets of our  main cities. This activity, which inevitably involves risk, raises questions of tort and accountability when things go wrong.

These self-driving systems may need to make split-second decisions that raise legal questions. A child suddenly runs into the road and the car has to choose: hit the child or swerve into an oncoming bus.

  • How does the car decide?
  • Who decides what the car decides?
  • Who is liable if it makes the wrong decision?

Legal practitioners and academics need to come together to think ahead of the consequences of the new uses of technology and put forward ideas for the best legal response. ”

So, interesting Technological Times ahead for the legal profession !

I believe that much of what we do will be replicated by computers within 15 years. How will solicitors in Kilkenny and rural Ireland survive?  That’s the question we need to be asking regularly.

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Insurers fail to prosecute fraudsters – according to former Irish High Court Judge

Former president of the High Court, Mr Justice Kearns has criticised the State’s loss-making insurers for not seeking the prosecution of people found to have made fraudulent injury claims.

Speaking yesterday at a conference on Ireland’s soaring personal injury costs and insurance premiums, Mr Justice Kearns said: “A particular bugbear of mine is the lack of resolve there appears to be by many insurers to tackle fraudulent claims and fight them to the end.”

When fraud is uncovered in civil cases, typically the claimant withdraws their claim without any further repercussions, he said, with insurers failing to make a complaint to the Garda, who could investigate and refer to the DPP.

The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by a recent UK study by Axa, the French insurer, which found that up to a third of respondents have either committed insurance fraud or thought it was justifiable to exaggerate a claim.

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