Planning appeal payments could have ‘serious’ tax consequences, Revenue warns

Whistleblowers asked to come forward to share information on payments made to influence the planning process

The Revenue Commissioners are examining alleged planning abuses, warning people who receive money for withdrawing spurious appeals that they are likely to face a tax bill and “potentially serious consequences”.

The State tax collector has urged anyone who was aware of such payments to report them through its whistleblower system, a route also open to those who paid over money in the past.

“The payment or exchange of funds, or other consideration, which ultimately influences the planning process potentially has tax implications,” the Revenue said.

Tax officials are known to be seeking information in relation to certain specific cases, although the Revenue insisted it could not comment on the affairs of individual taxpayers.


However, the tax authority stressed it “rigorously follows up” on any information related to possible noncompliance.

The statement follows an investigation by RTÉ's Prime Time into alleged withdrawal of planning appeals after payments, as well as concerns raised in the Oireachtas on Thursday by Labour leader Ivana Bacik.

She told the Dáil a developer was asked to pay more than €500,000 in exchange for the withdrawal of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

As concern deepens over the alleged malfeasance in the planning appeals system by serial objectors, the Revenue warned of grave implications for those who received payments but did not include them in their tax returns.

These could run to heavy payment penalties, publication in the tax defaulters list or even criminal prosecution.

Taxpayers can in some cases reduce the level of penalties they face and avoid criminal prosecution and publication of their name if they come forward to the Revenue to regularise their affairs.

In a clear effort to gather records on payments linked to the withdrawal of planning appeals, the Revenue said people can report information under the Protected Disclosures Act, which provides legal protections to whistleblowers.

The Revenue said individuals can come forward after coming across information “perhaps while working in a construction or development company, or while working in a planning consultant’s office or in an accounts or other finance function”.

People with information on questionable payments in other contexts could also report the matter to the Revenue, it said.

As the controversy deepens, An Bord Pleanála moved to clarify its powers. The planning appeals authority noted it did not have any investigative powers, but said it was open to it to “probe” the bona fides of certain appeals and refer them to other bodies. Any criminal matters were for gardaí to pursue, it said.

The planning body has never dismissed an appeal on grounds that the sole intention was to delay a development to secure payments, gifts or other inducements.

Asked last night about a new RTÉ report that An Bord Pleanála will review files related to one serial objector, the authority said it had nothing to add to a Friday statement in which it said it did not comment on individual cases.

In that statement An Bord Pleanála said it was duty bound to accept and process appeals that were validly made.

In the last five years, the board dismissed 38 cases under various legal provisions including appeals dismissed as being either vexatious, frivolous or without substance or foundation.

Anyone who believes an appeal is being made with the sole intention of securing a payment can bring that to the attention of the board, it said, or to the An Garda Síochána if they believe it is a criminal matter.

“An Bord Pleanála will co-operate with An Garda Síochána or other State authorities in the event of any investigations by such bodies into allegations of criminality.”

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Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times