Revenue ramps up 'e-audits' as tax base plunges
The Revenue Commissioners is planning to increase the number of e-audits they carry out as tax revenues continue to be put under pressure, minutes of the organisation's meetings show.
The Revenue recently told accountants and tax advisers that "greater use" of such audits in 2010 is on the cards.
The organisation has specially trained staff for such trawls as the collection of tax gets increasingly sophisticated.
The e-audits have been available for several years, but the number of them is set to rise as the organisation continues to try and improve recovery rates.
Because of the sensitivity of the work, all laptops and memory sticks used by staff are encrypted. Electronic work is also governed by a revenue code of practice.
So-called e-audits involve revenue auditors examining the electronic tax records of a company or an individual.
Sophisticated software is used to examine and evaluate the data to spot errors, incorrect entries, and so on.
"Basically, it is a tool used by specially trained revenue auditors to sift through electronic records to assist in tax audits,'' said a spokesman yesterday.
The Revenue -- as the Government's chief collection agency -- has been facing a tough period because of the economic downturn.
It collected €33.2bn last year, which was almost 20pc down on the previous year, as the property market crashed and consumer spending plunged.
Audits and assurance checks yielded €670.3m, while so-called legacy investigations into past events reached €2.58bn. An investigation into trusts and offshore structures started in 2009 and, to date, has yielded €17.6m from 94 cases.
The Revenue has also been trying to control its own costs with admin expenses coming in at 1.09pc of its total receipts.
The organisation's chairwoman, Josephine Feehily, has acknowledged the difficulties faced by taxpayers in its recent annual report.
"Revenue is fully aware of the difficulties faced by taxpayers and is also deeply conscious of its overriding duty to protect and enhance the efficacy of the tax system.
"In this context, a positive trend in our collection programme is that the rate of timely returns compliance held up well in 2009, especially among the large cases,'' she commented.