Revenue can seize tax defaulters' pay from bank accounts
The Revenue has been given "police-state" powers which allow it to seize the wages and salaries of tax defaulters directly from their employers and bank accounts.
The new provision is included in the 2011 Finance Bill rushed through the Dail and Seanad as the last act of the collapsing government.
The Finance Bill signed into law by President Mary McAleese on February 6 broadens the Revenue Commissions' "powers of attachment" to include people's salaries and wages.
As Revenue didn't even have to go to court to get an attachment order, this new provision caused considerable concern in the Seanad. But when members put down an amendment it was voted down by the Government.
Prior to the Finance Bill 2011, salaries and wages were specifically excluded from the 'power of attachment'. But it seems that desperate times make for desperate measures.
If you owe back taxes, Revenue will now be able to give notice to your employer to hand over your pay, or part of it. Apart from the breach of confidentiality involved, this new measure could also seriously compromise people's ability to make ends meet.
Fine Gael senator Eugene Regan SC tried to get the new power removed from the Finance Bill and questions its constitutionality.
He said it was a "police-state type of provision" and should not have been put through the Dail and Seanad without proper scrutiny and debate. And independent senator David Norris described the provision as "a horrendous power to exercise against the citizen". But the motion to remove it was defeated by 27 votes to 23.
Revenue insists that the power of attachment is used only when all other attempts to secure payment have failed.
Michael Finneran, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, who is not contesting the General Election, assured the Seanad the Revenue Commissioners would draw up strict guidelines on the use of the attachment.