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Irish tax returns 'very strong' in November: finance minister

reland's Finance Minister Michael Noonan (R) walks past Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos (L) and European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn during a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Francois

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's tax returns were very strong in November and provide evidence that improvement of the economy is gathering pace, finance minister Michael Noonan said on Monday.

Ireland will become the first euro zone country to exit an EU/IMF bailout this month with the economy set to barely grow this year but recent data, including the fastest fall in unemployment in four years, point to a better outlook for 2014.

"Tax and expenditure returns which will be published tomorrow are very strong indeed and we are very pleased with that because it provides the evidence that underpins all the anecdotes that we hear about the recovery in the economy," Noonan said in a speech at a banking conference.

"Recent indicators are showing the continuation of the recovery. Trading partner growth has also resumed and, while challenges and risks remain, external prospects are at their most benign for Ireland for a number of years."

Noonan's department is due to publish exchequer returns for November on Tuesday. Data for October showed that Ireland was 0.1 percent ahead of its 2013 tax revenue goal while government departments had spent 1.5 percent less than budgeted.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Padraic Halpin and Patrick Graham)