Thursday 21 September 2017

PAC puts spotlight on Revenue probe into HSBC affair

John McGuinness, chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee
John McGuinness, chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

THE Dáil spending watchdog is to seek an urgent report from the Revenue Commissioners on its handling of the HSBC tax dodging affair.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness said there was concern that only €4.55m had been recouped by Revenue when some €3.1bn in Irish-linked deposits were held by the bank's Swiss operation.

Revenue insists it fully assessed and evaluated information it received about the HSBC accounts from French authorities in June 2010.

It has also defended its decision not to seek the prosecution of HSBC for facilitating tax evasion by some of its Irish clients, saying there was not sufficient admissible evidence to mount a case.

However, Mr McGuinness said the committee would be seeking an explanation as to why more tax was not recouped by Revenue. "The taxes recouped would seem to me small in comparison to the principal sum. We would express concern at this," said Mr McGuinness.

Revenue said the money recouped to date related to 20 cases out of 33 investigations it initiated after receiving information on the Swiss accounts.

It also secured three prosecutions, although it has not provided details of these cases.

Liability

A Revenue spokeswoman said the existence of a foreign bank account was not evidence of tax evasion and that no liability arises where relevant tax is paid on funds in the account and on any interest accruing.

Mr McGuinness said the committee would be writing to Revenue seeking a report as soon as possible.

"We will be asking Revenue to give the Public Accounts Committee a report on the collection of the taxes that were due to the State and a determination as to whether or not other outstanding tax may be there. We need to know if they believe they have the full level of taxation collected."

Records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed HSBC's Swiss operation had 353 clients associated with Ireland in 2006.

Some 892 bank accounts were linked to those clients, around half of whom had an Irish passport or were of Irish nationality.

The largest sum held by a client connected to Ireland was $731.5m (€646m).

The files were originally stolen from the bank by former employee Herve Falciani and later seized by French police.

The data ended up being shared with tax authorities around the world.

Since mid-2010, Revenue has published details of settlements totalling €69m with 154 individuals and entities as part of offshore assets investigations.

However, it is not clear how many of these relate to the HSBC affair as Revenue has not named the financial institutions involved.

Irish Independent

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