The head of the Revenue Commissioners has acknowledged that bogus self-employment is “absolutely” an issue for workers, but said his body has no responsibility for regulating it.
Asked at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee about the trend, which sees people who, in effect, work directly for one company but are treated as self-employed, Niall Cody said: “I absolutely accept the changes in casualisation, the gig economy, the growth in precarious employment, but we are the tax agents.
“Our job is to ensure that the tax is collected, we are not the deciding agent,” he said.
The body generally perceived as the deciding agent on employment status is the Department of Social Protection. Its appropriation account will be discussed by the PAC next week.
Mr Cody said a 1997 decision by Revenue, which deemed all couriers to be self-employed in the interests of “uniformity” and which still stands today, had been made in order “to ensure that motorcycle couriers were brought into the tax net”.
He was asked why Revenue had declined a PAC recommendation to commission an independent investigation into the issue of bogus self-employment in the courier sector. Mr Cody said he had “found the request to be strange”.
“I appeared at the committee. At the end I was asked about bogus misclassification issues,” he said. “The committee then had a separate meeting with an individual (bogus self-employment activist Martin McMahon). We weren’t involved, and then a series of recommendations came as a result of a discussion which involved neither the Department of Social Protection nor the Workplace Relations Commission, which has primary responsibility for employee rights.”
“The recommendations were made for this office on the back of a conversation that wasn’t had with this office,” Mr Cody said. Revenue had refused the PAC recommendation stating that such a request was outside its jurisdiction.
“We are the collection agent, not the determining agent,” Mr Cody said. He agreed that he could not state categorically that no revenue had been lost to the State on foot of bogus self-employment.
He also acknowledged that Revenue has not calculated at any point the loss to the State on the back of such misclassified employment.
Meanwhile, the PAC’s report on the Department of Social Protection, published on Thursday, said that the JobPath model of jobseekers assistance has “not delivered value for money”.
The PAC’s review of the Department’s spending states that in its opinion the scheme “in the majority of cases… did not lead to sustainable (ie longer than 12 months) employment for jobseekers”.
The committee has recommended that the Department explore “other avenues to provide better value through localised, non-profit driven employment services”.
JobPath was first introduced by the Department in 2014 and aimed to reduce the levels of long-term unemployed by selecting people at random who had been out of work for some time to enter its mentorship programme. It has cost €248m to date and is due to close at the end of this year.
“When you break down the cost per job that actually lasted it finished up being very high,” said PAC chair Brian Stanley at the report’s launch. “People were put in jobs they weren’t suited for,” he said.