FLAC calls on Finance Minister to scrap plans to retrospectively tax Covid PUP in light of his comments endorsing the presumption against retrospective tax legislation

6 December 2020

FLAC Chief Executive, Eilis Barry has written to the Minister for Finance, calling on him to remove the retrospective provisions of section 3 of the Finance Bill 2020 from the proposed legislation before it is enacted.

Section 3 of the Finance Bill 2020 proposes to retrospectively impose a tax liability on claims for the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment (the “Covid PUP”). Ms Barry noted that, in debating a separate provision of the Finance Bill on 3 December 2020 which brought about a discussion on a proposal to make changes to the manner in which taxable profits are calculated under Ireland’s corporation tax regime, the Minister endorsed the principle that “changes to tax law are generally made on a prospective basis such that they apply only from the date on which they have legal effect”.

On 24 November 2020, FLAC wrote to the Minister and members of the Oireachtas, setting out the organisations concerns in relation to the proposed legislation and enclosed a Briefing Note prepared by FLAC’s Legal Team. That analysis suggested that the retrospective provisions of section 3 of the 2020 Bill may create a tax liability which is unexpected and which may disproportionately effect those who have suffered the most financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the proposed provisions may not accord with the constitutional protection of citizen’s property rights.

FLAC’s correspondence to the Minister on Friday, 4 December 2020, comes about after the Finance Bill completed report stage in the Dáil without FLAC’s concerns having been addressed.

Ms Barry commented:

“The Minister’s comments appear to be an endorsement of the principle which underpinned FLAC’s concerns about section 3 of the Finance Bill 2020. The constitution only allows for the retrospective interference with citizen’s property rights (including by way of retrospective taxation legislation) in very limited situations.

I find it difficult to understand how the Minister can rely on the presumption against retrospective taxation legislation in opposing changes to Ireland’s corporation tax regime, yet ignore the same presumption in introducing legislation which imposes a tax liability on claims for the Covid PUP, a payment which has been relied upon by those whose livelihoods have been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic”

FLAC are now calling on the Minister to abandon his plans to retrospectively tax the Covid PUP and we hope that this can be brought about when the Finance Bill comes before the Seanad on Wednesday, 9 December.”



Notes to Editor

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.


FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available from volunteer lawyers through a countrywide network of advice clinics (these clinics are currently conducted over the phone) – more at FLAC provides legal representation in a small number of cases in the public interest. FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC engages in policy work in areas of law that most impact on disadvantaged groups and including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. It operates the public interest law project PILA. FLAC appeared before the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response.


The Letter sent to Minister Donohoe is available at


FLAC Briefing Note is available on FLAC’s website at