The Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report shows that tax and PRSI increased by €5.2 billion in 2018 compared to the previous year. 

Corporation tax receipts increased by €2.2bn compared to 2017 - reflecting higher levels of corporate profitability in the economy. 

Income Tax receipts reported year-on-year growth of €1.2bn 

The report shows VAT receipts were up by nearly €1bn and Excise Duties fell by €507 million in 2018. 

The report also reveals that Ireland's gross national debt increased by €6.6bn in 2018 to €205.3bn.  

It was made up of borrowings in the form of Government bonds and loans received under the EU-IMF Programme.

European fiscal rules state that member states' general government debt should not exceed 60% of Gross Domestic Product. 

Ireland's general government debt was 65% at end of last year - 5% above the threshold.

The report also showed that the escrow fund that holds €14.3bn paid by Apple in backdated taxes and interest to the State is set to lose up to €70m a year. 

The report says the NTMA has estimated that due to the current negative interest rate environment the fund may decline by 0.5% a year, or €70m.  

The State spending watchdog also found that from September last year, when the transfer of funds from Apple into the escrow fund was completed, and the end of  2018 the fund decreased by €14m, while there was a further €2m in operating expenses which had been accrued at the year end.

Unacceptable level of irregular social welfare payments

The Comptroller and Auditor General has identified an unacceptable level of irregular social welfare payments.

In what is officially called a "material" finding, the C+AG examined a Department of Social Protection control survey of the means tested non-contributory State pension scheme which had a budget of €1.02bn in 2018.

The survey of 1,000 randomly selected payments found that one-in-five of these claims reviewed involved payments in excess of entitlement, and so were irregular.

The required reduction in payment averaged around €50 per week for claims in excess of entitlements.

The survey also found that 8.2% of claims reviewed were in underpayment and, as a result, such claimants who were received an average increase of around €30 per week, plus arrears.

On foot of the survey, the Department has tightened controls and also informed 10,000 claimants - selected on the basis of risk - of their obligation to advise the Department of change to their circumstances

It also is seeking to improve the notification of deaths from the General Register Office

The means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory) is a payment for people aged over 66 who do not qualify for a State Pension (Contributory) or who only qualify for a reduced contributory pension based on their insurance record.

Report highlights difference in forestation rates

A significant divergence in afforestation rates across the country has been identified by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The C+AG found that the afforestation rate in Leitrim was "just over 24 times the level in Donegal" between the years 2015 and 2018. 

In its report on the accounts of the public services 2018, the C+AG also found: 

  • There was an €11m shortfall in 2018 between the annual estimate of the Forestry Programme and the actual spend - which amounts to 10.6% of the amount provided. 
  • There was a shortfall of 17% between the 27,000 hectares targetted for afforestation between 2015 and 2018 and the actual amount of almost 22,500 hectares.
  • Forest road construction achieved only two thirds of the target of 110 kilometres a year.

'Significant scope' for online application forms

The report also saidt there is "significant scope" for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to roll out online income support application forms. 

The C+AG found that while such an approach has the potential to "increase accuracy and improve administrative efficiency", the Department has "very few" schemes for online application and/or automated checking and processing.

The report added: "Where this is available, the Department applies a 'digital by desire' approach i.e. online
application is a choice for claimants, and not mandatory as in other jurisdictions." 

Additional reporting Paul Cunningham