'Big Brother' software will find tax cheats, says Feehily

Josephine Feehily: warned Revenue very active in investigating offshore tax evasion

Sarah McCabe

THE taxman is cracking down on tax cheats thanks to new 'Big Brother' computer software, Revenue Commissioners boss Josephine Feehily has revealed.

Ms Feehily told a Dail committee that tax officials can now trawl through reams of data, including bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, to spot cheats.

The trawl is currently focused on VAT but will be widened to income tax and other taxes next year.

Results could also be shared with the Department of Social Protection in 2014 to prevent welfare fraud.

Ms Feehily said a probe into specific sectors such as the the car industry to tackle EU-wide VAT abuses found 18 car traders here needed to be investigated more deeply. Two have already been prosecuted and one jailed.


Turning to the property tax, Ms Feehily said Revenue planned to force PAYE workers evading the property tax to cough up within weeks of next month's payment deadline. Revenue will begin deducting the property tax from PAYE workers' pay cheques in July, she added.

People receiving occupational pensions will be next in the firing line followed by social welfare recipients.

The self-employed will be hit once they file annual returns in October and a surcharge could be applied. She said the tax office would make efforts to communicate with people before the tax is deducted.

About 80pc of all taxes are paid but Revenue says it expects compliance with the property tax to be higher.

Around 638,000 returns had been filed by yesterday morning or 40pc of the total figure. The deadline is three weeks away.

"We're very pleased with this," Ms Feehily told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

The fact that local authorities can raise or lower the property tax by as much as 15pc also got a lot of attention at the meeting. Local authorities can change the tax rate as early as 2015.

To collect the property tax, Revenue has been allocated a budget of €26m for 2013. Normally it is only allowed to spend 1pc of the overall value of a tax.

Since the Government estimates the property tax should generate around €500m a year, Revenue's normal budget for this would be €5m a year.

However, it is permitted to bump this up to €10m for the first two years of the tax for start-up costs. It has already spent €9m this year, with postage a huge cost.