Tax avoidance still rampant in Ireland, says McGrath

TD enraged by Paradise Paper revelations that AIB withheld information from Revenue

Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Eric Luke

Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Institutional tax avoidance still appears to be rampant in the State, it was claimed in the Dáil as further questions were raised in relation to the Paradise Paper revelations.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath referred to revelations contained in the papers and published in The Irish Times indicating that AIB refused to give the Revenue Commissioners access to data on its offshore customers when responding to a court order in 2015.

“The banks refused to obey the courts of this land,” he said.

The Tipperary TD referred to the Taoiseach’s actions as “tough guy with respect to social welfare fraud and that they [welfare fraudsters] should be named and shamed”.

But he said he did not see Mr Varadkar “outside the headquarters of AIB or Bank of Ireland with placards and hashtags saying that bankers should be named and shamed and that they should be outed”.

He said “the massive double standard that operates in this arena rightly infuriates people”.

Mr McGrath said ordinary families had been “terrorised and robbed” by the banks. For big business, “there is no law for them while the rest of us are all subject to the rule of law”.

He reminded the Dáil that after the last leaks revealed by the Consortium of Investigative Journalists in the so-called Panama Papers, then minister for finance Michael Noonan said he was “bringing forward legislation to enable tax defaulters to make a qualifying disclosure to Revenue”.

Mr McGrath said the minister had said that those who used offshore accounts in their evasion would be in a very difficult position if they did not come forward to regularise their affairs with Revenue.

Mr McGrath asked Mr Varadkar how many people came forward. He suggested it was very few and said “institutional tax avoidance still appears to be rampant in the State”.

The Taoiseach noted that in its statement issued on Tuesday, AIB said it decided in 2012 to wind down the relevant offshore companies. He said Fine Gael only came into government in 2011 “so within a year of us coming into office AIB decided to wind down those companies”.

The bank had confirmed that these companies ceased operation by December 31st, 2013. “I note from the statement that at all times the bank claims it complied fully with the law in any jurisdiction in which it operated.”

Mr Varadkar also repeated what he had said in the Dáil on Tuesday that the Revenue Commissioners would examine the Paradise Papers and would take further action if required, whether it was against individuals or companies.

He also reiterated that the Revenue had collected €1 billion already from targeting offshore operations.

Mr Varadkar again stressed that Ireland was one of only 22 countries given a clean bill of health on tax transparency by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). He reiterated that tax avoidance was an international problem that required an international answer.

The Taoiseach also reminded Mr McGrath that Ireland had agreed to information sharing where the Revenue would share with its counterparts in other countries how much tax companies paid in the jurisdiction.

“That is an important step forward so that revenue authorities in different countries will be able to share that information.”