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Tax squeeze on high-paid TV stars

Top media stars as well as building subcontractors are among those set to face paying more tax under new examinations of their status by the Revenue Commissioners, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Revenue is now examining the tax status of many of those involved in "outsourcing" to see whether they should or should not be classified as employees.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the examination is to determine whether people who are paid through a sub-contracting firm but are contracted to be at a place of work for full days are actually employees or not.

Any change in the criteria could have major implications for thousands of outsourced workers, including those top media figures in RTE.

At present, many of the highest-paid stars in RTE, like Pat Kenny, Ryan Tubridy and Gerry Ryan, are not technically members of the RTE staff but are paid through separate companies, enabling them and RTE to avoid paying tax on their high salaries.

As proprietary directors of their respective companies, they too can avoid paying employers PRSI, which means the State loses out on significant sums of tax income.

The same applies to many firms, including those in the construction sector, which have been subcontracted in by other firms to perform duties previously conducted by full staff members. During the height of the Celtic Tiger, when Exchequer revenues were healthy, the issue was not pursued, but more stringent criteria are now being applied to maximise the State's tax revenues.

Following well-publicised pay cuts, Kenny, who was by far the highest earner of all the RTE stars, reduced his salary from a staggering €951,000 to €630,000.

He could soon be liable for up to 10 per cent or €63,000 in PRSI should the move go through. Elsewhere, financial experts and accountants have begun warning clients in recent days as to a new Revenue clampdown warning them that if they don't get their accounts in order, they could face serious financial penalties.

Jimmy Sheehan, of Sheehan and Associates, said the Revenue is clamping down on PAYE workers with rental property.

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Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said: "Revenue announced recently that they will soon be starting to actively chase PAYE workers who might not be paying the tax they should be paying.

"Tax in Ireland is self assessment. It's up to the worker to make sure they're paying the right tax. 'I didn't know' is not an xcuse the Revenue will accept.

"The obligation is on you as the taxpayer, not your employer or anybody else, to make sure you are paying the right tax," Mr Sheehan added.

A Revenue spokeswoman said yesterday: "All information available to and information received by Revenue in relation to rental income is acted upon on an on-going basis. There is a heightened public awareness of information sharing among the relevant public bodies.

"Projects, specifically aimed at investigating landlords in the private rented sector, are regularly undertaken in all regions to monitor this sector. Arising out of these projects, some cases are referred for further investigation and audit."

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