C&AG report: Revenue yet to collect €730m in unpaid taxes

The Revenue Commissioners is yet to act on recouping hundreds of millions of euro of unpaid taxes which has been classified as available for collection.

As of the end of March, efforts by Revenue to claw back more than €730m in unpaid taxes were yet to start despite no obstacle to preventing officials from doing so.

A review by the Comptroller and Auditor General has uncovered the massive lump sum the State could benefit from, which accounts for more than one third of all tax owed to the State.

Of this debt, €289m was more than one year old, which Revenue accepts in the report worsens its chances of collecting the money.

Revenue’s accounting officer “fully recognises that the best chance of collection is at the early stages of debt arising”. He said “full coverage” of larger debts has been achieved but said the same was not possible with smaller debts due to the volume of cases and relative lack of resources.

The report shows that as of the end of March, €2.017bn of tax owed to the State has not been paid. This is a reduction of about 9% on the previous year. An additional €95m of local property tax not included in the €2bn-plus figure has not been paid by householders.

The two largest categories of tax debt outstanding account for more than 60% of the tax due.

More than €685m is owed in income tax with a further €551m worth of Vat yet to find its way into the State’s coffers. The likelihood of recouping the outstanding tax varies, however, with €716m under appeal and therefore currently beyond Revenue’s reach.

The bulk of these cases — more than 80% by value — were yet to be heard by the appeal commissioners by mid-June.

Of the €359m of debt for which a hearing date has not yet been requested, close to €100m is between five and 10 years old, while over half the total was more than three years old.

Last year, €228m of taxes and PRSI was written down by Revenue with companies going into liquidation and bankruptcies accounting for the largest proportion of these cases.

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