OAP tax fiasco led to €40,000 overtime bill
A huge overtime bill of almost €40,000 was paid to tax officials on a single day for answering telephone calls from pensioners who received "frightening" letters.
Officials manned a special information 'hotline' on Saturday, January 7, to deal with confusion caused by a Revenue Commissioners' letter to more than 100,000 pensioners.
The letters warned the elderly recipients they could face extra tax bills arising out of an extensive trawl of pension incomes going back several years.
Many pensioners discovered afterwards they did not owe any extra taxes, but the mass posting of the letters was heavily criticised for "scaring the living daylights" out of the elderly.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan admitted the huge overtime bill for operating the lo-call service on that single Saturday was €39,080.
He disclosed the huge overtime bill to be paid by taxpayers in a reply to Labour TD Ciaran Lynch in the Dail.
Age Action Ireland spokes-man Gerard Scully said the sending of the letter "caused a lot of distress and confusion among older people".
"It's regrettable the taxpayers have to foot this overtime bill," he said. Mr Scully said the Revenue Commissioners were now in talks with groups representing the elderly in a bid to come up with a better way of communicating with older people.
"The Revenue Commissioners themselves have said themselves realised the letters were not the best way to do it," said Mr Scully.
In all, 115,000 OAPs were advised in a letter from the Revenue that there could be changes to their tax liabilities.
One such letter resulted in a Dublin woman being informed later that her pension is being docked -- by 40c a year.
Grandmother-of-nine Ruth Stenson (67) branded the move a "waste of taxpayers' money" -- given that the cost of notifying her was greater than the savings involved.
"I don't know why they bothered doing this," Ms Stenson said. "I looked at it and there is 40c in the difference."
She said the resources spent on processing the letter and the postal cost would far exceed the amount saved.
"I think it's crazy," the Dundrum mother-of-six told the Herald. "I think they're going overboard in writing to us."