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Company helpline that’s been no help at all for confused consumers

Q&A: Angry CRH shareholders say they have been misinformed by company’s registrar as they struggle with US tax and dollar dividends

You wrote last week about problems for CRH shareholders and dividends. I too got a dividend cheque payment in dollars and with US withholding tax applied, despite my submission as an Irish taxpayer for payment in euro. The cheque arrived yesterday, 18 days after the dividend was declared.

I regret to inform you that the helpful gent at 01-6968467 says it’s nothing to do with him – it’s being handled by America!

Ms M.C.

If a company was to go out of its way to annoy the very people who invest in it, they would struggle to better what CRH (and its share registrar, Computershare) are doing currently.


It frankly isn’t good enough for CRH to keep deflecting the issue on to Computershare. Computershare provides a service for CRH; it is up to the company to ensure that the service being provided matches its expectations and those of its investors who are obliged to deal with it.

And for some investors at least, it isn’t.

For sure, the reputation of Computershare – one of the biggest players in its sector and a company that manages the share registers of many companies without incident – will take a hit if it cannot be seen to efficiently manage the fairly routine tasks involved with shareholder communication, such as company notifications, shareholder meetings and payment of dividends.

But the primary hit will be to CRH, a storied company in the Irish context. It simply reinforces the view among some small shareholders that they are more an irritant to the company than an investor.

That may not matter to a company whose largest single group of shareholders – and the growing share of its business – is US-based, but it does leave a bad taste in the mouth of many small investors who were loyal supporters of the business long before it was a global player.

I have received emails over the past week from all types of shareholders – ranging from investment novices who may have simply inherited the shares to professional people who are very familiar with the minutiae of cross-border business. All are experiencing much the same problems – and certainly the same frustrations – in dealing with Computershare over their CRH shareholdings.


In their response regarding this particular reader, Computershare is simply repeating the advice it gave on the issue last week – which is that Irish shareholders with concerns or questions can contact 01-6968467, where they will be able to speak to a real person and not just an automated service by choosing option 0.

Quite how reassuring that is likely to be in the context of the experience of Ms M.C. is a moot point. She clearly has no interest in fabricating a story about her call to that contact centre, and the information she received was entirely at odds with what Computershare says is the service it is providing.

In a statement, the company said: “We’re sorry to hear that a shareholder has the impression that our contact centre is not in a position to help with their inquiry. If we can receive their details, we’d be happy to arrange a call to the shareholder directly so we can assist. We would also be able to check any issues with their call.”

The reader has chosen not to disclose her details to the company, which is entirely her right. In its absence, it appears the company cannot do anything to track down her call or ascertain whether its contact centre staff are giving out information at odds with what investors are being reassured they will do.

Possibly the weight of calls from disgruntled CRH shareholders is higher than I had thought, or maybe dealing with the high-profile issues around CRH’s transition to the New York Stock Exchange is simply a very small part of what that centre is dealing with – ie it is not a dedicated CRH helpline. I cannot say.


Computershare does also point shareholders to the various information leaflets it has provided on the CRH stock listing change, covering areas such as registering with Computershare US, managing your dividend payment preferences and completing the necessary US tax certification forms.

Two of these were sent back at the time of the move in September. The third is a folded leaflet entitled “Important Information Regarding your CRH plc Dividend Payments”. Computershare says this was included with all dividend cheques sent to shareholders outside the US whom Computershare understands from its records have not opted to receive their payments other than in dollars or who are not yet certified with US tax authorities.

Apparently, that last missive will also have come with a copy of the W-8BEN form which the US tax authorities – the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) – requires for tax certification, and a form to enrol in Computershare’s international currency exchange, necessary for getting future dividend cheques in euro.

It has to be said that many correspondents assure me that they have filled out the W-8BEN forms. It is possible that some people have made errors on these forms, in which case access to a helpful ear would be welcome.

Of course, Computershare has also conceded it has messed up in an undisclosed number of cases – treating people who had correctly certified their tax position with the IRS as if they had not done so, and wrongly deducting tax from them.


All I can advise is if you are confident that you filled out the W-8BEN and yet had US tax deducted from your dividend, you pursue Computershare.

The company itself has said “no action is required” and that it is in the process of issuing refunds to shareholders it has identified as having been affected by its error on tax deduction. Personally, I wouldn’t wait to find out if you are in this group: I would take action and get in touch with them.

As always, I am a fan of putting things down in writing. This is not least so you don’t have the experience our reader suffered where she is clear she was fobbed off by the helpline to which Computershare directed her – a call the company now says it cannot trace, leaving her in a “he says/she says” circle of despair and futility.

By all means, call if you like, but follow it up in writing, confirming the details of that call. That ensures you have a record of the contact.

Computershare has provided an email address – – and a postal address (PO Box 43078, Providence, RI 02940-3078, United States 150 Royall Street, Suite 101, Canton, MA 02021, United States) in its communications with shareholders. Make clear in the email subject line or at the top of your letter that you are writing in reference to CRH shares so that there is no excuse for misdirection. And make sure you keep all paperwork.

It should be added that while Computershare has accepted it made a mess of some of the tax issues on the dividend cheques, there is no such admission in relation to the choice of currency. The company seems confident that anyone who elected to be paid in euro, has been.

But again, if you think otherwise, get in touch with them.