Figures from the Department of Finance show that the gap between Government spending and tax was almost €14.4 billion in the first ten months of this year.

The figures show that the amount of tax taken in for the 10 months was marginally ahead of targets set out by the Government earlier this year, though income tax is still falling short of expectations.

€24.7 billion of tax was received in the first ten months of the year, €243m or 1% above expectations, helped by a strong performance from corporation tax.

Read more details of the figures here

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has told RTE the Government will publish most of the assumptions underlying the Budget - such as its growth forecast - later this week. Opposition parties were briefed on some information last week but complained that they were not given key figures.

Mr Lenihan also told RTE the Government's four-year plan would be published later this month, and added that Budget day had been fixed for December 7.

DIRT drop hits income tax take

A breakdown of today's Exchequer figures showed that income tax of €8.6 billion was almost €370m behind target, a drop which the department is blaming mainly on weak DIRT receipts in October. VAT was marginally ahead of target at €8.45 billion, but corporation tax was more than €470m ahead of expectations at €2.6 billion. Excise duties were also slightly ahead of target at €3.7 billion.

The Department of Finance says the figures mean the Government's targets for the whole of 2010 remain on track. But it points out that November is a crucial month for the big tax categories, particularly for income tax from self-employed people.

Tax receipts are now down 5.4% compared with the first 10 months of 2009. The Government is expecting a 6% drop for the full year.

Total spending of €37.2 billion is €1 billion or 2.7% lower than the Government had expected and is down 4.2% from a year earlier. Current spending is almost in line with targets despite a big jump in social welfare payments, but capital spending is €1 billion or 22.5% below Government targets.

Interest payments on our debt to the end of October were €3.2 billion, more than €650m higher than in the same period last year.