Revenue gave tax data to EU probe without telling firms
THE MULTINATIONAL corporations whose Irish tax bills are being examined by European investigators were not told their sensitive data was handed over.
The European Competition Commission (ECC) has launched an informal information-gathering probe to find out how taxes are being levied on companies in Ireland.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg are also under scrutiny, amid international controversy about tax arrangements in these countries.
A number of international corporations were specifically named when the ECC asked the Government for information, it has emerged.
But the Revenue Commissioners told the Oireachtas Sub Committee on global taxation that the companies weren't told – because the information had to be handed over within a set time.
Eamonn O'Dea of the Revenue Commissioners also said that the companies still hadn't been notified.
"We proceeded to provide the general and more specific responses requested and ... the companies were not notified in that regard, because there was a time for the work to be done," Mr O'Dea said.
A spokeswoman for Revenue said there were no plans to inform the companies involved, and said the information had been passed in confidence.
"Revenue has responded to the Commission's request as required by EU law. Information has been provided to the Commission in confidence and Revenue does not propose to notify companies at this stage," the spokeswoman said.
The probe follows controversy in the United States, Britain, Germany and France about the level of taxes charged on US companies with operations in Ireland.
If any evidence of abuse emerges from the initial probe, a full investigation will be launched by Europe, although it is not known when this initial investigation will be completed.
Under Irish law, all businesses are supposed to be subject to the same laws and tax rates.
Mr O'Dea said all companies were treated equally and that no special deals or rates were being done.
"There never have been special deals between Revenue and companies in relation to rates," he said.
Gary Tobin of the Department of Finance said that it was possible that other countries would also be assessed by the Commission.
"The information (requested) was broad in scope but it also did get down to a level of specificity as well," Mr Tobin said.
Mr Tobin also dismissed the claim raised at a US Congressional Panel that computer giant Apple negotiated a tax rate of under 2pc with the Irish Government.
Fianna Fail's Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said he found it "odd" that companies had not been notified.
"They (Revenue) confirmed that sensitive information has been provided to the European Commission and that companies have not been informed of that. I would have expected as a courtesy that the companies involved would have been informed."