Revenue vows to pursue offshore account holders avoiding tax

Annual report says Revenue collected some €60m from offshore investigations

Revenue has promised to step up its focus on the use of offshore locations by those seeking to avoid tax.

Revenue has promised to step up its focus on the use of offshore locations by those seeking to avoid tax.

 

Those who attempt to avoid tax with offshore accounts have been warned by the Revenue Commissioners that greater cross-border co-operation, along with with better access to international financial data, will put them under an increasingly harsh spotlight over the next two years.

In its annual report, Revenue has promised to step up its focus on the use of offshore locations by those seeking to avoid tax. It said it had raised more than €60 million from such investigations in 2015.

All told, Revenue collected €45.79 billion for the exchequer in 2015, up 10.6 per cent on the previous year.

The increase was the fifth successive jump in exchequer returns and the second highest figure for net receipts in the history of the State. Only 2007 was higher at €47.5 billion.

Almost all taxes and duties recorded increases, with corporation tax up 49 per cent, capital gains tax up 28 per cent and Vat up 7 per cent.

According to the report, total tax receipts were 7.8 per cent ahead of target as exchequer returns were boosted by a strong trading performance and increased domestic consumption and investment.

Referring to white collar tax evasion, Revenue said the next two years would see developments in the automatic exchange of information with tax authorities abroad, such as the US Internal Revenue Service.

Offshore structures

“If I had an offshore account and I had not declared it, I’d be thinking about it now,” said Revenue chairman Niall Cody. “We are much nicer when you knock on our door than when we knock on yours.”

Revenue conducted more than 460,000 compliance interventions in 2015, yielding more €640 million in tax, interest and penalties, Mr Cody said.

He referred to the success of Revenue’s compliance projects targeted at specific business sectors, including construction and hospital consultants.

Revenue carried out 6,612 audits, which yielded €327.9 million for the exchequer last year, as the overall return from audits and compliance interventions rose by 5.3 per cent to €642.5 million.

Revenue said it collected €63.6 million from 68 cases associated with major legacy investigations last year, including action against holders of offshore accounts.

Mr Cody referred to recent media coverage of the Panama Papers and said Revenue was “examining the implications of the developments in Automatic Exchange of Offshore Financial Information for the Audit Code of Practice.

“While we have had major successes in investigating tax evasion, the new information sources that are coming on stream will shine a light on individuals and businesses that have used offshore facilities.

Real activity

While attention was placed on the taxes paid in this jurisdiction by multinationals, Mr Cody said the corporation tax base was considerably broader than just large multinationals.

According to the annual report, 97 per cent of property owners paid the local property tax last year. There were 324,000 reminder letters to late payers and mandatory reductions taken from the salaries and pensions of 65,000 people.