The latest Exchequer figures from the Department of Finance show a deficit of €1.945 billion up to the end of February. This compares to a deficit figure of €2.407 billion the same time last year.

Tax revenues were €128m behind Government targets due to a VAT shortfall of €119m.

However, compared to the same time last year, the tax take was up 2.2% to €4.840 billion due to increased excise duties, the introduction of the universal social charge and other Budget 2011 measures.

Read the Department's analysis of tax receipts here

Breaking down the figures, they show that income tax receipts rose by 25% to €1.967 billion compared to €1.834 billion in January. However, they were €45m behind Government estimates.

The increase was due to measures introduced in the December Budget, including the widening of tax bands, the lowering of tax credits and the fact that more workers were brought into the tax net.

The Department said that PAYE receipts last month amounted to €676m, €38m or 6% higher than the same time last year. It added that while PAYE receipts show the impact of the income tax measures introduced in December's Budget, they do not include receipts from the USC.

This evening's figures also show that VAT receipts came to €1.899 billion compared to Finance targets of €2.019 billion. VAT receipts fell in February for the second month in a row reflecting weak consumer spending and the impact of adverse weather conditions.

Excise duties came in at €639m, better than forecasts of €596m while capital acquisitions tax also beat targets as it amounted to €15.9m against predictions of €12m. Stamp duty receipts came in at €88m, lower than Government predictions of €96m.

The Government took in €105.9 million in corporation tax receipts last month, again lower than it had forecast. But it added that the first significant payment dates for corporation tax this year are not until the May-June months.