Exchequer returns for November show tax revenues were 1.8% ahead of target, and 6.5% higher than the same period last year.

November is the most important month for government tax revenue, and the Exchequer returns showed tax revenues for the month were €177 million higher than expected.

Income tax in particular performed well in the month – almost 9% higher than expected mainly due to payments from self-employed people.

The strong performance from the self-employed sector helped lift the year-to-date level of income tax to almost 1% better than target, after signs of slight under performance in previous Exchequer returns.

Corporation tax also performed a lot better than expected - 8% over target in November - the biggest corporation tax collection month of the year - and 16.3% over target for the 11 months.

Corporation Tax receipts of just over €7 billion are now close to €1 billion more than expected, however, the Department of Finance says a number of tax repayments to firms will reduce this sum during December.

VAT receipts in November – the last "VAT Due" month in the year – were significantly off target, coming in some 6.6% below expectations.

For the 11 months to November, VAT returns were just over 3% lower than expected.

Most of the shortfall is due to repayment of VAT to firms due to higher expenditure of investment.

VAT receipts are still almost 5% higher than for the same period in 2015.

Spending is below profile by almost €800 million or 2%. This is due to timing issues, and all budgeted spending is expected to be on target by the end of this month.

The Department of Health spending is €187 million below target, but this is due to cash management, and is expected to be fully spent by the end of the month.

Interest payments for the year to November amounted to €6.4 billion, a decrease of €186 million compared with 2015.

The Exchequer account recorded a surplus of €1.5 billion for the end of November, compared with a surplus of €343 million for the same period last year.

Commenting on the figures, Tax Partner at Grant Thornton Peter Vale said they were "a bit of a mixed bag, with strong income tax and corporation tax figures countering weaker than expected VAT receipts.

"While VAT receipts remain ahead of last year, they continue to lag behind forecasts, perhaps reflecting an element of nervousness amongst consumers.

"The next couple of months are clearly critical for retailers and for the contribution of VAT to the Exchequer."