Revenue accused of certifying unqualified tax advisers, raising smuggling risks
Tax authority strongly refutes allegations
Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
A global accountancy body has accused Revenue of illegally issuing a certification for tax advisers to unqualified persons, a move it suggests increases the risk of smuggling post-Brexit.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) alleged that Revenue have unlawfully issued national tax adviser identification numbers, or TAIN numbers, meaning that unqualified people are providing accounting, tax and customs advice to businesses.
Revenue strongly refuted the allegations, noting that, as the ACCA is aware, it has no legal role or authority in respect of regulation of the accounting profession or those providing advice as tax agents.
In an e-mailed statement, ACCA called on the Government to address the “gaping loopholes” in the Republic’s regulatory system which it believes will “enable a considerable upscaling in the level of cross border smuggling”.
It said the UK’s proposed cross-Border plans, which have suggested goods crossing into the North from the Republic would not be subject to tariffs, would place an onus on exporters to declare trade with the EU on goods moving from Northern Ireland to England, Scotland or Wales.
“Many of the people completing the paperwork on behalf of Irish exporters are unqualified, unregulated and have no long-term interest in the success of the company they are working for,” the accountancy body said.
The issue for Revenue, it added, was that it was granting TAIN numbers without first checking that those seeking the certification are supervised and regulated, something it said was a breach of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010.
“These unregulated ‘tax advisers’ are unaccountable and pose a significant threat for both the business they advise and other businesses competing against an ill-advised business who may be inadvertently evading duty and tax,” ACCA said.
But a Revenue spokesman said the tax authority “absolutely refutes” the allegation “that it is somehow engaged in any ‘breach of law’ when assigning Tax Agent Identification Numbers (TAIN) and also refutes that it has an obligation to ‘check that persons are supervised and regulated’ before assigning a TAIN”.
“The engagement of an agent or advisor to assist in the management of tax issues is a matter for each taxpayer to consider and to satisfy oneself as to the credentials of that individual.
“The provision of a TAIN number is simply an administrative facility that allows the nominated representative to engage with Revenue and to receive copies of relevant correspondence and notifications in an efficient manner,” the spokesman said.
“HMRC in the UK have already acted to close a similar loophole however Revenue have not and this omission has been pointed out consistently including by the international anti-money laundering body FATF,” said ACCA technical director Aidan Clifford.
Revenue noted there are currently just over 12,000 active TAINs.