CONTRACTORS who snoop on the tax affairs of neighbours, partners or celebrities will soon be breaking the law under new rules slipped into the Finance Bill.
The new law makes it an offense for outside workers linked to the Revenue Commissioners to look at tax details not related to an official inquiry.
The new offence follows problems earlier this year when an employee at an outside company administering the property tax inappropriately obtained the credit card details of people paying the tax.
It is already a criminal offence for tax officials to snoop into other people's accounts despite a string of reports about problems inside Revenue involving unauthorised searches by staff who were curious about their ex-partners or celebrities' tax affairs.
The legislation was contained in the Finance Bill, which gives legal effect to Budget measures. While most measures were contained in last week's Budget speech, the bill also contained a few surprises not introduced in Finance Minister Michael Noonan's Budget speech.
Other unheralded measures included powers to allow the Government to withhold licences for oil traders who have broken tax laws or engaged in laundering.
Horses will also attract a higher VAT rate unless they are being sold for horse meat.
There are also new rules to help Ireland's flourishing aircraft leasing industry. Other unannounced measures include a provision to allow people to claim mileage allowance in kilometres for company cars.
As previously reported in this newspaper, Mr Noonan will allow anybody doing home renovations to claim back VAT from today rather than January after the building trade complained that demand for builders had dried up as soon as the change was announced.
The move was welcomed by Hardware Association Ireland boss Jim Copeland who said that the "early start date will allow projects to begin and in some cases be completed in time for Christmas, which may be a determining factor for the work to proceed in the first place."
However, analysts say the decision will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euros over the next few years as it will allow the lenders to set losses against profits like any other company.