Friday 23 February 2018

Revenue takes battle against benefit cheats beyond the grave

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

THE only guarantees in life are death and taxes -- and now the Revenue Commissioners are checking up on you after you've died.

In a major clampdown on welfare cheats, the Government is cross-referencing information from agencies and departments, including the Probate Office.

The cross-checking in a number of areas saved the Government €2.2m last year and those now appearing in court for probate cases, in which a will is read out, are also being targeted.

An official from the Department of Social Protection regularly attends the Probate Office to inspect the Probate Register detailing wills so that anyone who may have been claiming a pension for someone who has died can be identified.

People working as bouncers and taxi drivers were among the most lucrative targets last year, according to briefing documents prepared for Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv. Bouncers and cash-in-transit operatives accounted for €900,000 of the €2.2m savings made by cross-checking more than a dozen organisations and departments, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The €900,000 saving was made as a result of checks with the Private Security Authority, which bouncers and cash-in-transit operatives must now register with. A spokeswoman for the authority confirmed the Government had requested and received details of licence holders on two occasions since 2008.

"The authority does not know how widespread welfare fraud is within the security industry," she said.

The Government is increasingly using its powers to access information from the likes of the Courts Service, the Irish Prison Service, the General Registry Office, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the Commission on Taxi Regulation.

Comparing lists can highlight if a worker is also claiming the dole or is earning more income than previously means-tested for.

Despite having legal powers to use information from Government departments and external agencies since 2005, the Department of Social Protection has only ramped up use of those powers since 2008 in many cases.


Fine Gael's Olwyn Enright last night said it had taken a recession for the Government to "wake up" to the need to adequately combat fraud.

Under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, information can be shared between departments and agencies for the purpose of controlling state payments. But only as budgets were being cut and the number of welfare claimants rocketed did the department ramp up its use of so-called "data-matching".

Last year, the Commission on Taxi Regulation supplied information on taxi licence holders, which led to savings of €1.03m.

As part of the annual taxi and vehicle licensing process, applicants must provide an up-to-date tax clearance certificate which contains their PPS number. In the case of the General Registry Office, marriage and deaths data is now furnished on a "regular basis" to the Department of Social Protection. This data is matched against the department's payment systems to identify irregular payments.

Similarly, information is gathered from the Revenue's "Commencement of Employment" data and third-level colleges' information on newly registered students.

Information regarding compensation payments through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and Personal Injuries Assessment Board has also produced savings.

Irish Independent

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