A surge in Corporation Tax take helped push Exchequer returns higher in the first half of the year, however a sharp increase in spending in health and social welfare also pushed the country's finances back into a deficit.

The State collected €26.86 billion in the first half of the year, according to the Department of Finance, which is €192m (0.7%) higher than the same period of last year and €4.31 billion (19.1%) higher than had been forecast.

However spending was €6.84 billion (27.2%) higher year-on-year, largely due to the response of the Department of Health and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to Covid-19.

This caused the Exchequer to slip to a €5.33 billion deficit in the first half of the year - compared to a €260m surplus in the same period of 2019.

So far this year Corporation Tax take has been 48.1% higher than forecast at almost €5.9 billion, while VAT receipts are €611m (11.5%) above profile at €5.92 billion.

Income Tax is €941m (9.8%) above target at €10.54 billion and is slightly higher than the amount collected in the first half of 2019, despite the impact of Covid-19.

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During June alone the State collected €5.16 billion in taxes and duties - 73.2% higher than the €2.98 billion targeted, and €199m (4%) higher than the amount taken in the same month of 2019.

It came as Corporation Tax take was €969m (66.4%) higher than forecast at €2.43 billion; 2.6% higher year-on-year.

VAT was €116m (135.5%) above target at €201m, which is also €63m (45.8%) more than received in that category last year.

Meanwhile Income Tax of almost €1.4 billion was €368m (20.8%) lower than in June 2019, but still €392m (38.9%) more than had been targetted by the Government.