Harrahill:?'finding it difficult to make ends meet'

The continuing credit crunch has contributed to a significant increase in the number of businesses facing liquidation or going into examinership so far this year. Hundreds of companies are now in this position, figures released by the collector general have indicated.

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Gerry Harrahill also said around twice as many struggling businesses have faced court applications for liquidation or have applied for examinership so far this year as in the same period last year.

There has also been a noticeable increase in the level of debt among businesses which have struggled to pay their tax, with trends seen in construction now becoming evident in other areas such as hospitality and haulage.

While the level of "enforcement activity" by his office is roughly similar to last year, Harrahill said there has been an increase of 15-17% in debts accrued by companies for which tax compliance is an issue.

The number of cases in which his office sought a liquidation order rose from eight during the first six months of last year to 16 this year. The number of applications for examinership is up from 17 in the first eight months of last year to 32 this year.

There has also been a significant increase in the numbers of "voluntary" liquidations by limited liability companies, from 207 during the first eight months of last year to 302 so far this year.

Harrahill said the figures showed "there are more businesses out there finding it difficult to make ends meet". But he stressed his office will continue to ensure they meet their tax obligations, at a time when this year's tax shortfall could exceed €5bn.

Revenue called in sheriffs or solicitors to collect outstanding debts 49,000 times last year, he said, with average debts of €14,700.

Harrahill said his priority is to ensure debts to the exchequer are paid.

"There is no performance indicator for me in terms of the number of businesses I wind up," he said.