Figures from the Department of Finance show that the gap between Government spending and tax was almost €13.38 billion in the first nine months of this year.

The figures also show that €22.2 billion of tax was taken in the nine-month period, broadly in line with targets set by the Government earlier this year. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the Exchequer figures were in line with expectations and showed that the public finances had stabilised.

A breakdown of the tax figures showed that VAT is running marginally ahead of target at just under €8.2 billion, while excise duties are 1.3% ahead of target at €3.3 billion. Corporation tax at just under €2.2 billion is 12% better than the Government had expected, but income tax is 4.4% lower than targeted at almost €7.4 billion.

Read more details of the tax figures here

Minister Lenihan said the performance of corporation tax was particularly encouraging, but higher unemployment was affecting income tax.

'There are significant receipts profiled for collection in the last quarter of the year, most notably in relation to income tax and corporation tax but the current expectation is that taxes overall will end the year in line with the Budget target of €31 billion,' he said.

Total spending of €33.2 billion was more than €1.5 billion lower than the same period last year and more than €800m less than the Government had targeted. Capital spending is more than 24% below target. Minister Lenihan said that while some of this should be made up by the end of the year, some savings on capital spending should also be made.

CIF concern over capital spending

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said it would be looking for immediate clarification from the Minister, after what it called his 'suggestion that the public capital investment budget is unlikely to be spent this year'.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said this was a blow for jobs and the economy. 'This Government's commitment to capital investment is now in serious question and guarantees on infrastructure priorities given as recently as this July seem to count for very little,' he said.