Single portal for 50 retail licences by end 2013

Three-year licences for publicans along with a decrease in cost for Special Exemption Orders seem likely with the recent agreement by Cabinet on proposals for reducing bureaucracy in the licensing of SMEs.

The proposals were brought to Cabinet just before Christmas by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD and the Minister of State for Small Businesses John Perry TD when they presented A Review and Audit of Licences Across Key Sectors of the Irish Economy to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs as part of Action Plan for Jobs 2012.

The report on licensing, prepared by Forfás, focuses on 159 licences across key sectors of the economy including manufacturing, food & drink, retail, waste management, road haulage, construction and hospitality & leisure. It finds potential to reduce the burden of compliance with licences by a third including removal/amalgamation of up to 20 licences.
As part of the Government’s plan, it’s proposed that by the last quarter of this year SME retailers will be able to apply for all of their annual licensing requirements more easily.

The licensing of alcohol sales across all sectors is exceedingly complex, states the Report, with 38 different excise licence variations for the sale of alcohol.

“In total there were 13,400 registered licences as of June 2012, most of which were in the hospitality and leisure sector. There
are up to six different licences for off-sales of alcohol depending on the product sold (for example, beer, spirits, wine, cider, sweets). For some excise licences there are none or very few licences held currently.”

The report finds a multiplicity of licence types (49 in total) in the hospitality and leisure industry, several of which are specialised and apply to a small number of businesses only.

The most common excise licence for the sale of alcohol is the Publicans Seven Day Ordinary Licence of which there were 8,509 full publican licences for 2011.

The initial application process requires that applications be made to both the District Court service and the Revenue Commissioners. The licence is renewed annually without a court appearance (for tax compliant businesses) with the fee based on turnover.

Among the options is one to consider how best to reduce the renewal frequency of publican licences with the prospect of obtaining up to three-year licences for publicans in good standing and tax compliant.
The report also recommends rationalising the number of excise licences for alcohol sales in a way that simplifies the application process but maintains the public health dimensions of the assessment process.

Special Exemption Orders

The report also finds that the system for granting SEOs is “administratively burdensome”.
SEOs are valid for one night only and must be renewed monthly via Court appearance.
The report points out that, “The licence and court fee cost for a nightclub open for three nights every weekend would be €62,000 per year. This is probably the highest direct fee cost identified for a single enterprise”.
The report recommends rationalising the application process for late-night events and reducing the use of court time in seeking SEOs.

Music licensing
In addition, music licences (IMRO and PPI) are perceived as a significant burden by the sector, primarily due to the costs associated with each licence.

As a result the report recommends that Cabinet consider how to combine the two music licences – businesses under statute currently have to pay two different organisations to play music.

The Cabinet Committee has agreed to proceed with the implementation of the recommendations in the report, including:

*     the introduction of one-stop-shop integrated online licensing systems for key sectors of the economy including harmonisation of registration and renewal dates

*    proceeding with the implementation of an integration of the retail licensing system incorporating up to 50 licences as a first-mover by the second half of 2013

Minister Richard Bruton commented, “A key part of the Government’s plan for jobs and growth is to reduce costs on businesses to make it easier for them to start-up, expand and create the jobs we need. Today’s announcement is part of a range of actions being taken across Government to improve competitiveness and reduce red tape, including the inclusion of a series of tax measures targeted specifically at SMEs in Michael Noonan’s recent Budget.

“Today’s announcement will mean that from the second half of 2013 retailers will be able to apply for all of their annual licensing requirements at the one time via a single website. It will mean significant savings in terms of time and costs for many hard-pressed businesses and entrepreneurs across the country which will help more of them start-up, survive, grow and ultimately protect and create more jobs. I am determined to ensure that this initiative is then extended to other key sectors of the economy along with other measures to reduce the total burden of licencing by 33%, helping to improve our competitiveness and create the employment we need”.

John Perry TD commented, “I envisage the final delivery will be a one-stop-shop website for business licensing requirements.  Rather than having to invest the time in dealing with a multiplicity of agencies, business will be able to apply for all licensing requirements, applications and renewals, through one single website.  This will significantly simplify the process for business and cut down on the administrative burden, particularly for those businesses that require multiple licences such as the retail sector”.

Forfás Chief Executive Martin D Shanahan added, “Getting a business started can require a range of different licences, with numerous applications and the requirement to deal with a number of Government departments or agencies.  For example, establishing a medium-sized supermarket could involve up to 20 different licences. Our study shows that licensing is recognised as essential by business but that the burden associated with many licences is high.  Businesses are telling us that initiatives to reduce the regulatory burden would be very welcome.

“The Forfás review found that there’s potential to amalgamate a number of sectoral licences and that a single integrated licensing system would significantly reduce the licensing process for businesses, particularly in the retail sector and for the construction and food and drink sectors.  There is significant potential to improve the way licences are processed and issued and to extend the renewal frequency of licences to reduce the burden on businesses while still ensuring that the regulatory objective is achieved.  Forfás also found that there’s opportunity for greater use of risk-based licensing to reduce the burden and associated costs for low risk and compliant businesses.  The Minister’s proposals announced today around a single point of delivery of licences to ensure the minimum administrative overhead will be a very welcome development for business.”

The full report and recommendation are available at www.forfas.ie
More information: http://www.forfas.ie/publications/2012/title,10098,en.php

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