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Revenue claws back €359m after 'cash business' audits

THE Revenue Commissioners revealed yesterday that it took in €359m as a result of audits on companies.

Most of those audits were focused on so-called cash businesses. The construction sector was the leader in that regard, with 1,306 audits yielding about €39.3m, while landlord or rental properties brought in €42m from just 733 audits.

Chairwoman Josephine Feehily added the Revenue was "very active" in investigating tax evasion through offshore accounts. The "Offshore Project" yielded €18m, and more may follow, she said.

"Our investigations have led to the uncovering of two types of cash extraction schemes with a total tax at risk of €198.5m."

Enquiries are ongoing in 84 companies across the two schemes at the moment.

The Revenue chairwoman warned that "aggressive" tax avoidance schemes posed a "serious threat to the Exchequer and can undermine the entire tax system by negatively influencing taxpayer behaviour".

By the end of last year, the Revenue was investigating schemes worth a possible €110m in capital gains tax.

Revenue increased its net take last year even as it warned that staff cuts were making it harder than ever for the department to do its job.

Publishing its annual report for 2012, the Revenue said net tax and duty receipts increased 7.1pc to €36.7bn last year. That was the second increase in returns in a row – the first time that has happened since 2007.

The net debt available for collection – which excludes debts that are being disputed or are under insolvency proceedings – fell 10pc to €1.2bn.

The improvements in collection came even as the commissioners saw staff levels fall by 230 during the year to 5,732.

Ms Feehily made clear the fall in staff levels had hurt the department's ability to enforce tax collection but added that automation of several processes had allowed her team to still be efficient despite this.

Ms Feehily said her team, which focuses on the shadow economy such as tobacco and alcohol, last year drilled down in particular on fuel laundering.

That strategy was a "considerable success", she said.

Overall, the Revenue seized more than 1.1 million litres of laundered fuel during the year.

Illegal tobacco consumption "is being contained" – with 95.6 million cigarettes seized last year.

Irish Independent