Friday 21 November 2014

Property tax records to be used in rooting out Revenue evaders

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Published 22/03/2014 | 02:30

REVENUE officials will use property tax records to catch homeowners they suspect are cheating on other charges, taxes and levies.

A spokeswoman for the Revenue Commissioners confirmed that the returns made for the property tax would now be cross-checked against other records in a bid to catch people evading taxes.

Property tax details will also be compared with tax returns or social welfare payments.

It comes on the weekend that property tax payments are due to be deducted from the bank accounts of half a million homeowners.

The information gathered on the owners of the 1.6 million houses covered by the property tax is now to be analysed by the Revenue's main computer system to identify those most likely to be evading tax.

Revenue uses a system called REAP – risk evaluation analysis and profiling.

"We will be adding data from the local property tax returns to our REAP system this year," the Revenue spokeswoman said.

Tax expert Christine Keily of Taxback.com said the vast information that Revenue now has will mean there is even less chance for tax evaders to escape notice.

"The LPT (local property tax) returns will also have the effect of making it easier for Revenue to look more closely at people's tax affairs and to probe where necessary," she said.

Suspected householders are likely to be audited by Revenue.

The REAP system will make the job of identifying those not fully tax compliant much easier, Ms Keily said.

"Essentially REAP is a tool which collates and interrogates customer data from within the Revenue data warehouse.

SCORES

"The system allocates a score indicating the level of potential tax risk associated with a customer based on a series of business rules," she said

The most obvious starting point would be those suspected of under-valuing their homes for the property tax.

The crackdown by Revenue comes a month after Revenue chairman Josephine Feehily told the Public Accounts Committee that Revenue would "go after local property tax outliers".

This refers to those who have put a valuation on their home which is out of kilter with other properties in the area.

"The further out people are from the norms, the more likely we are to begin with those," Ms Feehily had said.

But Ms Keily of Taxback.com said that even suspicions about high claims being made by a household for medical expenses could trigger a Revenue audit.

"It would not appear unreasonable that 'high risk' or high-value medical expenses claims could similarly be incorporated into an individual's risk profile, altering their chances of being selected for audit," Ms Keily said.

Homeowners who opted to pay by single-debit authority were due to have the money deducted from their bank accounts yesterday.

Revenue said this week it had collected almost €1.5m a day in household charges after it threatened to haul homeowners before the courts for not paying up before the end of the month.

The surge in payments follows Revenue's warning that it would impose tough penalties and interest and pursue enforcement action on property owners refusing to pay by the March 31 deadline.

There are a still around 260,000 homeowners facing sanctions or possible prosecution if they do not meet the looming cut-off date.

Irish Independent

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