Minister rejects calls to act on DIRT bill

 

The Minister for Finance was accused yesterday of washing his hands of the AIB/DIRT tax controversy when Mr McCreevy told the Dail that he had not and would not be discussing the issue with the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners.

Fine Gael's finance spokesman, Mr Michael Noonan, criticised the Minister for not having a policy position on an unpaid £100 million tax bill. It was an outrage to taxpayers, he added.

Mr McCreevy repeatedly rejected Fine Gael calls to raise the issue with the Revenue Commissioners.

He told TDs that the controversy in which it was alleged that the Revenue Commissioners "turned a blind eye to tax fraud and in relation to DIRT and bogus non-resident accounts" was not new. He said he had given a detailed reply on the issue in April this year to the Democratic Left TD Mr Pat Rabbitte and it was discussed at length in the Dail last week.

The chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Mr Dermot Quigley, had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee and made it clear that there was no settlement or write-off of tax in the case.

"Even prior to the earlier media reports this year of historic non-compliance in this area, Revenue had already commenced a review of the position generally."

The Fine Gael spokesman asked if the Minister had questioned how the Revenue Commissioners could say that no settlement had been made when it was a matter of "public record that a settlement was offered to AIB, that AIB negotiated a settlement and the settlement was made". There was correspondence in the public domain from the senior Revenue Commissioners official to the bank about this.

Mr McCreevy said he noted the correspondence but he had not asked the chairman about it and did not intend to. The Minister said: "It would not be appropriate nor has it ever been the practice that the Minister for Finance would discuss individual cases with the Revenue Commissioners."

Mr Noonan asked: "Do I take it that in this matter of grave public concern, that is an outrage to the taxpayers, that the Minister is washing his hands of the issue, saying that it is a matter entirely for the Revenue and that he does not have a policy position on it?"

The Minister said, however, that it had not been the practice to enter into negotiation on specific cases and he would continue that tradition.