The first stage of an un-precedented worldwide crackdown on tax evasion and banking secrecy has got under way, with Irish banks this week starting to collect details of non-resident bank account holders.
The collection of information follows on from the agreements brokered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) during the worldwide slump, after pressure mounted about the way companies were using tax havens, in some cases paying no tax.
However, the information being collected from January 1 involves both individuals and companies and other entities.
The Revenue Commissioners said it will, in time, receive reciprocal information from other jurisdictions about Irish resident taxpayers who have accounts abroad.
With the new information, Revenue will be able “to verify tax returns and to target and confront taxpayers that are non-compliant”.
Worldwide, the first collection of information starts this year and the Revenue will receive the new information in 2017.
“Practical measures now under way at OECD and EU level will further improve the exchange of information between tax administrations and further limit the opportunity to avail of bank secrecy to facilitate tax evasion,” said Revenue.
The Common Reporting Standard is an OECD-developed standard for the global exchange of financial information, it said.
Non-EU countries will exchange information under an EU directive.
The CRS is set to replace the existing EU Savings Directive.
“Ireland is an early adopter of this standard and Irish financial institutions will start collecting information as part of enhanced due diligence procedures from January 1,” Revenue said.
“Currently, over 90 countries have signed agreements to exchange data, with over 50 committing to first exchanges of data in 2017.
"Those 90 committed jurisdictions include Ireland, the UK, and Liechtenstein, as well as other EU member states.
Revenue said it will integrate the data into its existing risk assessment and taxpayer profiling procedures. It said this will allow it to build a fuller picture of taxpayer behaviour and risk.
“In addition, we will investigate the potential to use the new information to select a specific batch of cases for intervention and to pre-populate tax returns in order to reduce the burden of compliance.
"Revenue will actively pursue offshore tax evasion and will seek tax, interest, and surcharges, penalties, and other sanctions, as appropriate, in such cases,” it said.
In a preliminary review yesterday, Revenue described 2015 as “a positive year”.
“We have a 99% timely filing and payment compliance rate by the largest businesses and a 97% timely compliance rate for medium-sized businesses,” said Revenue chairman Niall Cody.
The UK tax authorities in recent weeks ran a press campaign saying it would soon receive information from 90 jurisdictions.
It urged taxpayers to come forward with undeclared income.
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