Wednesday 18 September 2019

Taxman steps up Paradise Papers probe

Declan Rigney Picture: Tom Burke
Declan Rigney Picture: Tom Burke
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners is intensifying a probe into offshore tax evasion after a trawl of assets from Australia to the UK yielded €84m in tax and penalties for the Exchequer.

The probe includes an investigation of a treasure trove of revelations made recently in the so-called Paradise Papers. The leaked documents detailed tax avoidance schemes used by wealthy individuals and corporations all over the world.

More than 100 countries now share individuals' tax information, making it tougher to avoid detection of offshore assets.

Revenue launched a high-profile crackdown on offshore tax evasion last year, giving anyone who believed they had an outstanding liability on anything from pensions to property an opportunity to cough up before the end of a six-month deadline. It had pledged to hunt down anyone who didn't reveal any potential liabilities. Errant taxpayers now face the prospect of prosecution and also having their name published in tax defaulters' lists.

Anyone who made a voluntary disclosure and payment before the deadline will not be subject to higher penalties that would otherwise have applied.

"Anyone who did not come forward by the May deadline now faces substantially higher penalties, publication in the quarterly list of tax defaulters and possible criminal prosecution," said Declan Rigney, head of Revenue's planning division. He added that work in identifying offshore tax evasion and avoidance will continue to be a priority.

The Revenue Commissioners received 2,734 voluntary disclosures before last May's deadline. Taxpayers reported foreign income and assets in almost 70 countries.

The amounts ranged from just a few hundred euro to tens of thousands of euro.

Of the €84m collected, €53m was tax owed, with €25m in interest added, and €6m in penalties.

Almost 1,200 disclosures related to assets and income in the UK - the single largest amount in any one country. An additional 377 related to the United States, 183 from France, and 132 from Spain.

Of the foreign assets and income declared, 29pc related to property and 20pc to shares.

Offshore pensions accounted for 16pc of assets and income disclosed to Revenue, while bank accounts made up 17pc.

Referring to the Paradise Papers, Mr Rigney confirmed Revenue is already analysing the information.

"Revenue is also aware of, and is actively examining, the information and revelations published in the media. As further information becomes available from this or any other source, we will examine it.

"Revenue will work in co- operation with other tax administrations in the framework of the OECD's joint international taskforce on shared intelligence and co-operation, to address issues raised by the Paradise Papers and will, as appropriate, share information with these other tax administrations under existing legal frameworks."

Irish Independent

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