Wednesday 26 June 2019

Taxman nets €1bn in offshore bank accounts investigation

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

The taxman has netted €1bn from its decade-long investigation into offshore bank accounts.

The significant milestone was reached in recent weeks, the Revenue Commissioners has revealed.

But this figure is set to grow even further after officials confirmed they were examining newly received information relating to 162 bank accounts in the Isle of Man.

The accounts were held by Irish customers of the former National Irish Bank (NIB), now Danske Bank.

The move was made possible following an order of the Supreme Court last December.

The Revenue's annual report for 2013, published yesterday, revealed that the information sought was finally provided to the taxman at the end of March.

Revenue chairman Josephine Feehily warned that "significant interest and penalties could arise" for the people whose bank account details were handed over. "We will now be examining this information and contacting people as required," she said.

While it is not illegal to have an offshore account, the money kept there must be declared for tax. Account holders must also pay tax on any interest, income or gains earned.

The Revenue probe into offshore accounts began in 2004 and was expected to wind down a few years ago.

However, it got a new lease of life after getting new powers entitling the taxman to seek details of financial transfers between Ireland and secretive offshore tax havens.

To date, some 15,225 separate individual cases have been dealt with as part of the ongoing operation. Almost €15m in taxes, charges and interest was recouped last year.

When it was first launched in March 2004, the Revenue allowed for voluntary disclosure by account holders.

This netted €800m from 14,000 account holders.

But the strategy changed after 2006 and the Revenue began seeking High Court orders to compel financial institutions to disclose information.

The banks were obliged to provide Revenue with details of all movement of funds by their customers to and from certain jurisdictions, mainly Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and Northern Ireland.

The orders were subsequently extended to cover Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

In the recent case involving Danske Bank's branch in the Isle of Man, the Revenue sought details such as the name and address of the account holder, the date the account was opened and the opening balance, the maximum balance of the account over the life of the account and, if applicable, the date of closure of the account.

The High Court refused to grant the order, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision.

But a decision was also required by the Isle of Man courts, which ruled NIB was not precluded from complying with an order of the Irish Supreme Court.

Irish Independent

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