Business Irish

Monday 10 December 2018

Offshore offenders who missed deadline may face prosecution

Revenue taking hard line on assets which have not been disclosed

Advisers have warned that the stance could stop asset holders from coming forward (stock image)
Advisers have warned that the stance could stop asset holders from coming forward (stock image)
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

The Revenue Commissioners have refused to rule out the prosecution of taxpayers who come forward to make disclosures about offshore assets.

Tax advisers sought clarification as to what would happen to those who came forward after May 4, a cut-off date for taxpayers to come forward in exchange for lesser penalties.

Offshore assets and tax avoidances were in the spotlight last week following reporting of the so-called Paradise Papers, a batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby.

At a meeting between Revenue and accountants and lawyers in June, tax officials said that there would be no mitigation of penalties when offshore assets are disclosed and where the behaviour is seen as 'deliberate'.

According to the minutes of the meeting, practitioners raised concerns "that the possibility of criminal prosecution may prevent individuals in certain sectors from coming forward to declare any offshore defaults".

Revenue previously set a deadline of May 4 for all Irish taxpayers to come forward and reveal if they had any undeclared offshore income. This would results in a "discounted" penalty rate of 10pc of the tax due and they would avoid the prospect of criminal prosecution or having their names published.

Revenue said that following the May 4 cut-off date: "The facts and the evidence will determine if a case is put forward for prosecution. Each case is considered on its own merits. Should a person make a disclosure, Revenue will consider all facts of the case, but prosecution cannot be ruled out."

Practitioners stated that some taxpayers would not be willing to come forward if non-prosecution was not assured. Revenue said that disclosures relating to offshore matters were still encouraged.

Tax advisers also referred to the "anxiety" that may arise relating to offshore pensions to which Revenue said that the income tax exemption thresholds were high in relation to this.

Revenue also stated that they have no discretion when it comes to publication of cases, as 'naming and shaming' is mandatory under legislation if the criteria are met. Revenue also said that the deadline for making a qualifying disclosure relating to offshore matters had been widely publicised.

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