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One-in-five tax cheats are 'too poor' to pay up

ONE-in-five tax cheats has escaped paying any penalty despite defrauding the State of millions of euro.

A total of 124 evaders tracked down by the Revenue Commissioners escaped paying more than €21m in tax, interest and penalties because they did not have any money.

And another €9m found as a result of audits, but where the identity of the offender was not published, was also written off because there was an inability to pay.

Revenue said that their officials carry out investigations to satisfy themselves that the cheats are genuinely unable to pay.

If this is the case, they are not subjected to any further action – such as prosecution in the courts.

But figures confirm that 21pc of all published settlements with the Revenue Commissioners are never paid.

The only way this money might be recouped in the future is if the tax evader comes into money through a windfall such as a lottery win, an inheritance or an up-turn in business.

Data from the Revenue Commissioners shows that in 2012, settlements totalling some €98.46m were published in state gazette 'Iris Oifigiuil'.

All the settlements were for amounts of more than €33,000 and where penalties imposed exceeded 15pc of the tax due.

AGREEMENT

They were only published after a Revenue investigation into the financial affairs of the individual taxpayer or business. The settlements were not reached voluntarily.

Of these, just 79pc – almost €58m – were paid in full, or agreement reached to repay the amounts over time – up to a maximum of three years.

Another €19.5m was sent for enforcement and recovery, where goods were seized, but the remaining €21.04m was written off due to an inability to pay. Average bills for the 124 evaders who escaped paying the money back amounted to almost €170,000 each.

Another €9m was written off, which was discovered during audits, but were not above the threshold allowing publication. The number of taxpayers involved is not known.

Revenue defended its decision not to take further action against the evaders that it had uncovered.

It said it continued to monitor individuals involved and could potentially recoup the money at a later date.

"If information subsequently comes to Revenue's attention and the tax becomes collectible, for example if an individual is left a large sum of money in a will, wins the Lotto, or their business improves, it (the settlement) will be reinstated and Revenue will pursue collection of the tax in the normal way," it said.

But the lack of punishment was criticised by Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath, who said offenders should be held accountable.

He said Revenue "should be pursuing individual cases through the courts."

hnews@herald.ie


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