Multi-millionaires pursued for suspected tax avoidance

The Revenue Commissioners has launched 20 investigations into multi-millionaires suspected of attempting to avoid tax payments, including one found with millions of euro in cash hidden in their home.

Revenue chairman Niall Cody confirmed the investigation, divulging 90 “high wealth individuals” with individual net assets over €50m are paying less tax than someone on the average industrial wage.

Speaking during a four-hour Public Accounts Committee meeting, Mr Cody said that, since January 2017, officials have launched 20 tax investigations, 34 audits, 30 “profile interviews”, and more than 1,000 secret case appraisals.

Revenue chairman, Niall Cody

Mr Cody said the investigations have clawed back almost €2m in unpaid taxes this year, with “significant evidence of tax evasion” or suggestions of significant “tax managing” needed to launch an investigation.

However, he said a number of cases are complex in terms of the source of the money and whether it can be taxed, including one individual found with millions of euro in their home that carried a tax liability of €19m.

Mr Cody was asked by Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien to clarify the case and explain how much money would someone need to have to incur a €19m tax liability. 

The deputy said “it sounds like there was tens of millions of cash in their attic” and that “even the Central Bank wouldn’t have an attic that big”.

Despite confirming the case relates to money “found at the appellant’s dwelling over the course of an audit which the respondent contends relates to un-taxed self-employment income” accumulated over a number of years, the Revenue chairman declined to provide details.

However, he later said a calculation could be found by dividing the tax liability by three and multiplying it by 10, indicating a €63m fortune.

Mr Cody and Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy had earlier confirmed at the same meeting that, out of 334 people the Revenue Commissioners classes as a “high wealth individual”, 90 have “an effective income tax rate less than the national average”.

The issues are likely to raise fresh questions over tax cases in Ireland, just two months after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was urged to tackle the controversy in the lead-up to Budget 2019.

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