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Irish Revenue has issued two eBriefs over the past numbers of weeks in relation to concessions originally introduced in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

eBrief No. 232/20, which issued in late December 2020 and eBrief No. 004/21 which issued in January 2021 sets out the Irish Revenue’s current position in relation to personal tax and PAYE matters affecting benefits-in-kind and payroll reporting for employees working in Ireland as a result of Covid-19. The overall principle is that concessions announced in 2020 have been withdrawn except for specific items in relation to certain benefits.  The updated guidance can be  be found here.

On a separate but related note, the Social Welfare Department has also changed the process for obtaining Personal Public Service Numbers “PPSNs” with immediate effect, and this new process is outlined below.  A number of our clients indicated that they had significant challenges with the temporary process in the lead-up to Christmas, with applications routinely taking 12 to 15 weeks to be processed.  We hope that the new automated process will address this issue.

Revised COVID-19 concessions

With effect from 1 January 2020, the following COVID-19 concessions have been updated:

Benefits-in-Kind

Tax treatment of reimbursements by an employer to an employee regarding holiday/flight cancellations or in relation to costs of assisting employees returning to the State

From 1 January 2021, the provisions relating to the reimbursement of costs associated with non-business travel will apply in the usual manner. As such, should an employer reimburse an employee for a cancelled holiday or fund flights to support with their return to Ireland, in most cases this will again be considered a taxable Benefit-in Kind. The temporary tax exemption no longer applies.

Employer-provided vehicles

eBrief 004/21 confirms that the temporary concessions relating to employer-provided vehicles will continue until further notice on the basis that the government guidelines continue to stipulate that employees should work from home wherever possible.  As such, where an employee still has a company car available to use, and their business mileage has been impacted by COVID-19, the amount of business mileage travelled in January 2020 can still be used as a base month for the purposes of calculating the amount of BIK due. 

Share schemes filing deadlines

Revenue have confirmed that the filing deadline for all 2020 share scheme returns is March 2021 as normal and there will be no extensions.

Special Assignee Relief Programme (“SARP” application deadline)

The requirement to apply for SARP within 90 days of arriving in Ireland to take up employment duties here was extended for a further 60 days (i.e. 150 days in total) in acknowledgement of the disruption created by the pandemic.  This concessionary measure ceased to apply on 31 December 2020, and thus for individuals arriving in Ireland from 1 January 2021, all SARP 1A forms must be filed within the 90-day timeframe as normal.  It’s worth noting that a PPSN is required to complete the SARP 1A form, and thus given the delays currently being experienced in respect of PPSN applications, we anticipate that this change could create some practical challenges.

PAYE dispensation applications

Where certain conditions are met, it is possible to apply to the Irish Revenue for PAYE clearance for short-term inbound assignees/commuters, and employers are required to notify Revenue within 30 days of the employee first arriving in the State.  Whilst the requirement to notify Revenue was removed during the pandemic period, it has been reintroduced with effect from 1 January 2021 - although Revenue have noted that exceptional cases may be notified to Revenue as required.

Other cross border employment matters

Operation of Irish PAYE in respect of foreign employments

Back in March 2020, Revenue  removed the obligation for non-resident employers to operate PAYE in Ireland where their employee’s temporarily relocated to Ireland due to COVID-19.  Again, this concession ceased to apply with effect from 31 December 2020, and thus for 2021, the requirement to operate PAYE should be considered in accordance with the normal guidance.  As such, where employers availed of this concession in 2020, it may be necessary to reconsider the applicability of Irish PAYE where the employee has remained in Ireland.

Multi-state workers

Where an arrangement was in place with the Revenue that allowed an employer operate PAYE based on an established work pattern in Ireland prior to COVID-19, Revenue confirmed in March that the foreign employer could continue to operate Irish PAYE on this basis where the employee was unable to return to the other foreign location in which they would normally work as a result of COVID-19. This concession is no longer applicable with effect from 1 January 2021 and PAYE should be operated based on actual time spent in Ireland working on a go forward basis.

Irish employments exercised wholly outside Ireland

Ordinarily, where an employee is working overseas under an Irish employment contract it is possible to obtain a PAYE exclusion order (“PEO”) in Ireland where the individual is non-resident and performs no more than 30 workdays in Ireland in the year. Up until 31 December 2020, the validity of any such PEO would not have been impacted where an individual worked more than 30 days in Ireland due to COVID-19. Again, this concession is abolished from 1 January 2021 so employers should ensure that they correctly operate PAYE where the conditions to obtain the PEO are no longer valid. 

Force Majeure

Within the original concessions, Revenue made reference to the existing guidance for those prevented from leaving the state as a result of unforeseen circumstances i.e. Force Majeure provisions.  However, the applicability of these provisions for those impacted by COVID-19 was unclear, particularly given the protracted nature of the pandemic.  As a result of this uncertainty, Revenue have now released updated guidance regarding the applicability of the Force Majeure provisions which can be found here.

Concessions remaining in force

The following concessions/guidance continue to apply as normal until further notice:

  • Where an employer provides support in respect of COVID-19 testing, no BIK charge will arise
  • Where an employer provides employees with the flu vaccination, no BIK charge will arise
  • A BIK will not arise where an employer provides home office equipment to employees.  Further guidance in respect of e-Workers can be found here.
  • Employers can continue to pay for taxis to transport an employee to/from work due to health and safety concerns without a BIK arising
  • In the case of frontline or other key staff, the Small Benefit Exemption can still be applied to two incentives tax free (subject to a cumulative cap of €500).  Without this concession, the exemption applies to one incentive only.
  • The concessionary measures for Trans-Border Worker Relief will continue to apply in 2021 for those employees who are required to continue work from home in Ireland as a result of COVID-19. It's important to note however that in order for Trans-Border Worker Relief to apply, the host country foreign tax liability must be non-refundable
  • The 31 March 2021 filing deadline for tax returns where a real-time Foreign Tax Credit was granted through payroll in 2020 is also suspended.  The standard 31 October 2021 filing deadline will apply in such instances

PPSN Application Process

Prior to COVID-19, obtaining a PPSN was a manual process, and in most instances these were applied for in person via the Social Welfare Office, and processed within 10 working days.  A temporary process was introduced as a result of COVID-19, which required applicants to email the relevant forms/documents to a department mailbox.  Whilst this process worked, as noted above, individuals experienced significant delays, with 12 – 15 week turnaround times not uncommon.  With effect from 1 January 2021, applying by email is no longer possible, and it has been replaced by an online PPS Number application service via MyWelfare.ie.

In order to apply for a PPS Number via the online service, individuals will need to have a basic MyGovID account. This can be set up at www.mygovid.ie.  Applicants will need to provide evidence of why they require a PPS Number, and they will need to upload photos or scanned copies of the following:

  • an identity document
  • a proof of address, and
  • evidence of why the individual need a PPS Number.

If an individual is applying for a PPS Number to take up employment, they must have a signed offer of employment from their employer confirming when their position is to start or when it started. The employer’s letter should be on company headed paper and with the employer’s contact details together with the employer/company registered number.       

Further information regarding the PPSN application process can be found here.

Get in touch

If you have any queries on the concessions discussed above, please contact Thalia O'Toole, Olive O'Donoghue or Edward Stewart-Moore of our People Services team. We'd be delighted to hear from you.

Further reading