Revenue may face tax files grilling by an Oireachtas committee

The Revenue Commissioners may have to appear before an Oireachtas committee and answer questions on tax-avoidance revelations about offshore accounts used by Bono, banks, and others.

The call for authorities to probe the Paradise Papers leaks comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was forced to defend Ireland’s actions. He said closing off loopholes was a game of cat and mouse.

Revelations that tech giant Apple shifted its tax-avoidance schemes to the island of Jersey after a clampdown in Ireland on loopholes has again turned up the heat on tax arrangements here.

The Revenue Commissioners look set to be quizzed about wealthy individuals or companies who are using offshore arrangements to avoid paying tax.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: “I think it is important the Revenue Commissioners would come in before the finance committee and that we would hold a number of hearings on the issue of off-shore activity transactions and assets based offshore that belong to Irish citizens.

“These papers that have been released are probably only tipping the very edge of this issue.”

Mr McGrath said Ireland rejected claims of doing a sweetheart deal with Apple on taxes and the corporate record leaks would not water down an appeal over the EU’s €13bn fine on state aid with the firm.

He said he wanted to hear if Revenue’s powers needed to be strengthened.

There were also questions about whether AIB complied with a court order to hand over details, in 2015, on offshore activity. The Paradise Papers noted how the bank helped customers access tax-haven structures. The bank says this offshore operation has since closed.

“It will stick in the craw of Irish people who paid a huge sum for the bank bailout and even after bailing out AIB that they continued this practice of facilitating tax avoidance through offshore activities,” said Mr McGrath.

Asked about individuals such as Bono and the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys who were exposed as using offshore regimes to avoid tax, Mr McGrath said: “Our view would be very clear, the people who are working in Ireland or who are tax resident here, they should be paying their taxes in Ireland and any convoluted tax structure that seeks to circumvent the normal rules that apply to ordinary people are not acceptable.”

Bono, according to the Paradise Papers, was an investor in a company based in Malta which bought a Lithuanian supermarket.

Mr McGrath said: “It’s all connected, there are people not paying their fair share of tax in this country — and that includes Bono and many others — then others will suffer as a result of that.”

Mr Varadkar has reiterated that tax avoidance is an international problem and said closing loopholes is “constantly a game of cat and mouse”.

In the Dáil, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall accused Mr Varadkar of a “cop out” in blaming international regulations.

Ms Shortall asked if Ireland’s capital allowance regime was changed last year to allow Apple keep its profits “entirely untaxed” after the so-called double Irish tax regime was closed.

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