Gardai probe Revenue officials over tax scam
Another hiked ex-wife's liability Worker falsified records for friends
Published 01/01/2011 | 05:00
GARDAI are investigating Revenue officials after internal audits uncovered evidence that they falsified individual tax records and defrauded the State, an Irish Independent investigation has found.
The Revenue Commissioners referred cases on two separate officials -- who have access to details on every taxpayer in the country -- to gardai after finding evidence of abuse.
One former employee being investigated by the gardai -- a woman in her 20s -- admitted falsifying receipts so that friends, her boyfriend and his family could claim refunds for non-existent medical conditions and college fees.
She changed records and gave herself extra tax credits, resulting in a loss to the Exchequer of €6,818.
Two other Revenue employees who improperly accessed tax records resigned their posts rather than face a full internal inquiry. Gardai are not investigating their cases.
Official documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Revenue has probed a raft of incidents that came to light as a result of their investigations.
- A female official who snooped on politicians and a former Revenue chairman. The same woman improperly faxed information to a financial institution about customers who were setting up SSIAs.
- A male staff member who changed his estranged ex-wife's tax details "with the intention of causing (her) financial hardship".
- A woman who was dismissed after she was found to be "helping" three limited companies to file their taxes.
- A staff member who admitted she had two PPS numbers as she had "previously gone by a different name and date of birth".
At least 20 employees have been investigated internally in the past four years and reprimanded for their actions.
Revenue employs around 6,500 staff in 130 locations, making it the largest single organisation in the civil service.
Most staff caught snooping on taxpayers' details are dealt with internally and are given a one or two-year pay cut for their indiscretions, as well as being barred from promotion for the same period.
Details in the files are heavily edited to protect the identities of the employees and taxpayers.
The files show some staff have simply snooped -- but others have passed details to third parties or changed records.
And even the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners is not immune, with one low-ranking civil servant found to be snooping on former Revenue chairman Frank Daly's records in 2006 and 2007.
Disturbing claims were also uncovered from staff members saying that it was "common practice" to deal with a colleague's tax affairs. This is strictly forbidden under Revenue and data protection rules.
One file quotes a union official as saying there was a "culture" of snooping within the department.
An official from the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) attended an interview in July 2009 after a male member of staff was found to have improperly generated a PAYE balancing statement for a colleague's brother.
"Ms (name withheld) said that a culture had developed in the service and that other people were doing similar things as in this case," interview notes stated.
She then accused management of "trying to clamp down on this culture instead of tackling it".
A spokesman for the CPSU insisted snooping or changing records was "not endemic".
"But even one case is one case too many," he said.
"We are working with Revenue to try and clear up any grey areas from people's minds so they know the requirements."
A spokeswoman for Revenue said it "categorically rejects" the claim that there is a culture of staff checking and amending each others' tax records.