by Eamon Quinn
The Revenue said it received information on €84m in offshore assets before a late spring deadline, and confirmed it will investigate the latest revelations made in the so-called Paradise Papers.
The haul came as last year’s Finance Act imposed a deadline of May this year after which tax defaulters with undisclosed offshore assets could no longer avail of the Revenue’s voluntary disclosure procedures and reduced penalties.
Before the deadline, the Revenue received 2,734 disclosures, including property, shares, bank accounts and pensions, worth €84m and over half were held in the UK. France, the US, Spain, Germany, Australia, Canada, along with the Isle of Man, Luxembourg, and Jersey, featured prominently on the list.
Revenue’s firepower in tackling offshore tax evasion has been considerably strengthened in recent years by agreements struck between EU countries under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD), and tax authorities are increasingly sharing information.
However, there is considerable anger across the world about the untaxed billions resting in offshore havens, as leaks from tax advisers in the Panama Papers, and most recently in the Paradise Papers, fuel public concern.
Declan Rigney, who heads up Revenue’s Planning Division, said the authorities are using the new era of co-operation to ensnare tax evasion cases disclosed in the Paradise Papers. “Revenue is also aware of, and is actively examining, the information and revelations published in the media,” Mr Rigney said.
“As further information becomes available from this or any other source, we will likewise examine it. Revenue will also work in close co-operation with other tax administrations in the framework of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Co-operation, to address issues raised by the Paradise Papers and will, as appropriate, share information with these other tax administrations under existing legal frameworks,” he said.
Tax advisers said that despite disquiet there are signs individual Irish taxpayers are increasingly tax-compliant over their offshore assets. Tax hauls from voluntary disclosures and enquiries are considerably less than over a decade ago because international agreements have tightened up in recent years, said Brian Keegan, director of public policy and taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland.
Revenue struck information-sharing pacts between EU tax authorities and information effectively started to flow into Revenue this year, Mr Keegan said.
Mr Rigney at Revenue said: “The international environment has changed very significantly since Revenue started to investigate offshore bank accounts and other offshore assets in 1999. Tax authorities worldwide now co-operate very closely in identifying and tackling those who hide their profits or gains abroad. Initiatives such as Facta — an inter-governmental agreement to share financial account information with the US; Dac — EU Directives on Administrative Co-operation; and CRS, the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard, involving over 100 countries, provide tax administrations, including Revenue, with access to information in respect of the offshore assets and income of their residents.”