€32bn tax take similar to 2003 level

 

THE REVENUE Commissioners collected €31.9 billion net tax and duty receipts last year, a level last seen in 2003, despite being 2.25 per cent ahead of the budget target.

The figures indicated that the pace of the economy’s contraction was moderating, the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Josephine Feehily, told a press conference yesterday to launch its 2010 annual report.

Total tax debt fell by 1.6 per cent, to €2 billion, but still remained high, she said.

Ms Feehily said the Revenue believed that there is an increased risk of tax evasion during a recession, but she could not point to evidence of this. However, she said there was increased evidence of tobacco smuggling.

“I have said many times that we want to help viable businesses and taxpayers who want to pay their taxes but can’t in the short term. We can, and do, put alternative payment arrangements in place to help such customers through difficult periods.”

However, she emphasised that people and businesses must engage with the Revenue at the earliest possible opportunity and in a realistic way. “Revenue is not a lender of last resort,” Ms Feehily said.

She said the Revenue’s objective was to do more, with less, and pointed out that over the past three years the cost of running the organisation had come down by almost €95 million. “This year it is costing us nearly 20 per cent less than it did three years ago to run Revenue.”

Ms Feehily urged people not to ask for a “cash price” when conducting business, not to pay any service professional in cash if asked to and to make sure to get a receipt, ideally one that shows the VAT paid.

“Tax evasion is wrong and is unfair on those who do pay their taxes,” she said. Ms Feehily said the Revenue had an excellent relationship with the National Asset Management Agency, as would be expected given that its chairman, Frank Daly, is a former chairman of the Revenue.

She said the Revenue had powers that allowed it receive good intelligence from Nama and that to date it had received data on 108 Nama cases.

She also said that in the wake of the banking crisis, the Revenue had conducted an inquiry into 300 bank directors and senior bank executives. However the exercise yielded only about €1.3 million, from what Ms Feehily described as “small-scale stuff” such as benefit-in-kind issues.

The Revenue received information from another state about Irish people with bank accounts in Switzerland. Some of made disclosures to the Revenue under the 2004 voluntary disclosure scheme, but a small number of individuals had “questions to answer”. The investigation was at an early stage and so far had yielded €2 million. Ms Feehily would not say which country had supplied Ireland with the data.

Earlier this month, Swiss bank Julius Baer agreed to make a settlement with Germany when it launched an inquiry into German tax evasion after buying a compact disc containing stolen financial data last year.

Ms Feehily said the Revenue was continuing to investigate offshore assets and sifting through information gleamed from court orders served on Irish clearing banks and concerning transactions involving Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

“We have identified 3,600 cases who have had dealings with those jurisdictions,” she said. “We have more checking to do before we can say whether those dealings cause us concern or not.”

Last Friday was the due date under a new mandatory disclosure regime compelling promoters of tax avoidance schemes to tell the Revenue about them. Five disclosures have been made to date and the Revenue is expecting more.