Revenue admits using newspaper ‘rich lists’

Revenue has admitted that they rely on newspaper ‘rich lists’ to identify the super-wealthy.

A special division within the Revenue Commissioners office was set up last year to solely deal with the 200 so-called high-wealth individuals who have net assets of over €50m.

However, a report compiled by Revenue and submitted to the PAC shows how “challenging” it can be to identify, mainly because tax is calculated on income rather than wealth.

Revenue also said a “strong desire for privacy” among the country’s super-rich, the “complex business arrangements” used by them, their “high mobility”, and the international nature of their operations also creates significant problems for tax assessors.

As a result, Revenue Commissioners have turned to rich lists, which are published by two Sunday newspapers each year.

In their investigation, Revenue also found that there were 68 taxpayers on the rich lists not in the Large Cases — High Wealth Individuals Division (LC-HWID), who are registered for tax in Ireland and, from a brief profile, appear to have net assets over €20m.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has already suggested that all people with assets over €20m should be taken under the control of the LC-HWID.

Many of those identified through the rich lists are large shareholders in high-value companies. Revenue’s report recommends that in addition to seeking to identify taxpayers with a combination of assets over €20m and beneficial ownership through corporate structures, further consideration should be given to identifying resident taxpayers who hold shareholdings in high-value non-resident companies.

The report recommended that Revenue should continue to carry out an annual review of the rich lists.

Revenue also found that there were 140 taxpayers, not already in LC-HWID, who disposed of assets which exceeded €20m between 2010-2017. Most of those taxpayers had more than one disposal for consideration over €5m in that time period.

There were 38 taxpayers, not in LC-HWID, who acquired assets which were worth more than €20m.

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