The amount of tax collected in the first seven months of this year is slightly ahead of target, according to figures from the Department of Finance.

Just over €18.6bn in tax was collected, about €260m or 1.4% better than expected.

The figures also show the cost of restructuring the banking system widened the Exchequer deficit.

Income tax, corporation tax and excise duties performed better than expected, but VAT was almost €200m behind, due to weak consumer spending.

In July, VAT on a number of items was reduced as part of the Government's jobs initiative. The full effect of this, if any, is not likely to be seen for a couple of months.

Overall, there was an Exchequer deficit of €18.9bn for the first seven months of 2011, up from just over €10bn in the same period last year.

More than half of this was due to the banks, with €7.5bn going into the main banks in the past few weeks to help them meet capital targets by the end of July.

Excluding these payments, the Exchequer deficit was down compared with a year earlier.

Meanwhile, spending continues to be slightly lower than the Government had anticipated, due to a big drop in spending on capital projects.