Saturday 14 December 2019

Revealed: The worst county for tax defaulters in past five years

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Donegal has the highest rate of tax defaulters in Ireland over the past five years, according to an analysis of figures from the Revenue Commissioners.

However, the rate in Donegal of 83 defaulters per 100,000 population is closely followed by Wexford at a rate of 81 and Westmeath at 79. The average for the 26 counties is 51.

The analysis looked at details of 2,200 cases published by Revenue from January 2012 to September 2017. The taxman names and shames the individuals or companies in the tax defaulters' list every three months. The list includes every case where a settlement with an individual or company was made, above a threshold of €35,000.

The taxman has recovered more than €450m over the five-year period from the defaulters, which includes dozens of cases from outside the Republic of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, England, Portugal, Liechtenstein, the United States and Switzerland.

However, these 2,200 cases are just the tip of the iceberg, with a Revenue spokesperson explaining it carries out thousands of investigations every month resulting in settlements below the threshold of €35,000.

Waterford has the lowest rate at 34 per 100,000, with Clare on 35.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the names who have appeared on the lists are the self-employed and companies - both of whom have to file their taxes outside the PAYE system. The worst single category among those caught was people who described themselves in at least part of their occupation as "company director", who made up 11pc of cases.

The next biggest grouping was drawn from those who listed an occupation in the construction industry (7pc) or farming (6pc).

Irish Farmers' Association spokesman Martin Stapleton attributes the sector's prominence to the fact there are 100,000 farmers in Ireland.

"The IFA would have no sympathy for those who deliberately try to avoid their tax," said Mr Stapleton, who is chairman of the IFA's farm business committee.

"But we would have some concern that some people, through no fault of their own, have accounts submitted that aren't accurate and because of that find themselves in a position whereby they're not paying the full amount of tax."

Construction Industry Federation director general Tom Parlon also puts the prominence of his members down to the sheer number working in the building trade, estimated at 150,000 by the CSO.

"There's an awful lot of self-employed people now," said Mr Parlon. "Construction has changed massively. The big companies are more like project managers. There's now an awful lot of smaller, specialist subcontractors who clearly have to comply with their own tax affairs as well."

A spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners said the agency always targeted the most likely avenues for non-compliance: "We will always go after the riskiest cases in any sector. For instance, in the building industry the shadow economy might be a factor and would put them higher in risk ratings."

While Donegal is the county with the highest rate of tax defaulters, when it comes to the amount of settlement made, it was outpaced by two other counties at opposite ends of the country. Sligo defaulters paid the equivalent of €173 for every man, woman and child in the county while Wexford followed at €161.

At the other end of the scale, Clare was the best-behaved, recording a figure of just €37 paid by defaulters per head, followed by Carlow and Louth at €40.

* This report was produced in conjunction with UCD Data Journalism


Irish Independent

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