REVENUE was owed over €1.8bn in unpaid taxes at the end of March, with €628 million of that amount being the subject of appeal.
The Comptroller’s report shows that between March 2008 and March 2009, €575m in taxes went unpaid. When added to monies owed from previous years, it brought the total of unpaid taxes to €1.86bn.
Of that figure, €628m is the subject of appeals by those who failed to pay, and while these appeals are being processed, Revenue is prevented from seeking to collect the money.
According to the report, Revenue is finding it harder to collect taxes since the recession hit.
“Revenue’s overall experience in 2009 has been that the effort involved in securing collection has increased. There has also been an increase in demand from business for more time to pay.
“The upward trend in the level of tax outstanding reflects the difficult economic circumstances,” it states.
While Revenue was willing to work with struggling companies “in an effort to find an agreed way through their difficulties and restore voluntary timely compliance”, it could not become a “banker of last resort”.
“Revenue expected businesses, notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which they were now operating, to maintain a clear focus and organise their financial affairs to ensure that tax debts were paid as they fell due,” the report said.
“The dilemma for Revenue was to distinguish between businesses that will not pay, businesses which could not and never would be able to pay, and businesses which were viable but were unable to pay just now.”
The report shows that:
* Revenue wrote off €129m of taxes and PRSI in 2008 because it was either unable to collect the money or considered the cost of collection to be disproportionate.
* The largest single amount written off last year was €9.9m owed in employers’ PAYE/PRSI and VAT by a liquidated company in the security industry.
* Revenue carried out a total of 360,859 audits and checks in 2008, which yielded €632.3m in extra taxes.
* In all, standard audits and checks have yielded an estimated €3bn over the past decade.
* A special investigation into undisclosed funds in Irish bank accounts began in 2008 and had yielded €73.8m by the end of April this year.
* Revenue’s special investigations have seen an extra €2.6bn in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest collected over the last decade, in addition to the €3bn raised by standard audits.
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