Wednesday 17 December 2014

Sixteen solicitors pay €9.2m to settle tax bills with Revenue

Published 06/08/2014 | 02:30

SOLICITORS ended up making the highest 'average' settlement with the Revenue Commissioners.
SOLICITORS ended up making the highest 'average' settlement with the Revenue Commissioners.

Solicitors who fall behind in their tax payments end up making the highest 'average' settlement with the Revenue Commissioners.

The amount paid by 16 lawyers who evaded tax between 2009 and this year stands at €9.2m - an average of €575,149 each.

This is more than twice the average of €222,704 paid by other professions found to have evaded their tax liabilities.

An analysis of more than 1,400 settlements reached between Revenue and individuals or companies in the last five years shows that €315.5m was collected in tax, interest and penalties from those who failed to pay their way.

While solicitors top the list of highest average settlements, they are followed by musical artists/promoters/agents at €480,764, and bookmakers at €427,127.

The payments were made after Revenue officials probed the finances of taxpayers amid concerns they had not paid the correct rate of income and corporation tax or PAYE/PRSI.

They would also have opened an investigation if the individuals concerned held offshore bank accounts or failed to disclose other sources of income.

The figures show that the construction sector accounted for one in five of all settlements made, 287 from a total of 1,417. They paid €57.6m, or an average of €200,818.

The analysis also reveals:

● Some 233 company directors made settlements, totalling €57.3m, or €246,025 each.

● They are followed by retirees at 124 settlements, averaging €338,683, and farmers with 176 payments, at €149,410 each.

● Other notables include publicans (107 cases), restaurants/cafes/fast food outlets with 97 and landlords at 75.

● Some 48 doctors also made high settlements, paying an average of €300,028 each.

The Revenue Commissioners said that it used more than 50 sources of data to identify companies and individuals more likely than others to not pay their bills.

"There's huge amounts of third-party legislation (that can be used to obtain data) from all government departments and state agencies, including payments from the Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Protection," a spokesman said.

He added that many defaulters would have been identified because they failed to pay their taxes on time, or had a history of non-compliance.

In some cases, applying for a licence could raise concerns.

"If someone applies for a taxi licence, and they're not on our system, that raises our interest," he said.

Many of the cases arose after an audit, some 8,037 of which were carried out last year. Of these, about 70pc yielded additional taxes.

Individuals are given 21 days' notice that an audit will commence, with Revenue taking a particular interest in employers and businesses.

Those subject to scrutiny can make a qualifying disclosure before the audit formally commences.

This will result in a lower penalty, if one is warranted, because the taxpayer is deemed to have cooperated.

The spokesman also said that some taxpayers paid off their bills on a phased basis in instalments. Only in exceptional circumstances was the amount written-off, and the amount could be recouped if their financial circumstances changed.

"We don't want to refuse money," he said.

"It's on a case-by-case basis. Most are one or two years. If you claim inability to pay, we demand a very high standard of proof.

"We look for a statement of affairs and that you accept you owe the liability, and that if your financial circumstances change you must pay."

Irish Independent

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