Revenue tax hunt to target retailers and pubs

RETAILERS, pubs and other cash businesses are to be targeted in a new crackdown by the Revenue Commissioners.

Hundreds of tax officers will conduct on-the-spot inspections of cash businesses as part of a nationwide audit of the cash economy.

Revenue bosses suspect many cash businesses, such as retailers and publicans, are not paying their full taxes.

Teams from the 2,000-strong “compliance” section of the Revenue Commissioners will be hitting the streets and inspecting retailers. This will involve using technology in cash registers to determine the real level of activity in the business.

Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily made the announcement as she launched their 2008 annual report. It confirmed the bleak state of the public finances and the rapid slowdown in economic activity:

* The exchequer collected e8 billion less than estimated in the budget.

*Around 400 businesses a month are looking for more time to pay their taxes, up 45% on last year.

* Amount of debt available for collection jumped from e895m in 2007 to e1,233m in 2008, up 37%.

Ms Feehily said, while they were accommodating businesses who come forward looking for time, they were also hardening their position on serious tax evasion. There were 15 convictions for serious tax evasion last year, up 50% on 2007. There were five convictions for serious Customs offences. There were 118 further prosecutions underway.

Ms Feehily said they were concerned at the increased risk of non-compliance in the cash economy.

“You can take it, in 2009, we are alive to the risk and we will be putting increased attention in areas of the cash economy right around the economy,” she said. “That will play out in terms of officers visiting cash businesses on the street.”

She said these officers were trained in “using technology in registers to access the underlying level of business, because of risks of under-declaration”.

These visits will follow notifications from Revenue advising retailers to get their tax affairs in order.

As part of this new crackdown, Revenue will continue their targeting of specific sectors they consider may not be paying full taxes.

Ms Feehily said this year they would be examining the security sector and the hospitality sector, particularly pubs. Last year they targeted the legal profession and takeaways. Out of 23 barristers and solicitors audited, they collected e1m in undeclared income, interest and penalties.

She said a similar audit of takeaways in Dublin north city yielded e2m.

Ms Feehily said cigarette and tobacco smuggling represented a “serious threat” to the exchequer. Some 135 million cigarettes, valued at e54m, were seized in 2008, with a potential loss to Revenue of e43m.

The report highlighted a massive rise in the seizure of cash suspected of being linked to criminal activity. There was a 250% rise in the value of counterfeit goods, such as DVDs and sportswear, seized.


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