Taxes of €222m written off last year over failed businesses

A GROWING number of failed businesses arising out of the economic downturn led the Revenue Commissioners to write off almost €222 million in taxes last year.

The latest annual report by Revenue published yesterday also revealed that some €2.1 billion of outstanding taxes was still to be collected at the end of 2009.

It also highlighted how the scale of the economic downturn has heavily impacted on overall tax revenues, which fell by 19% last year. Overall tax receipts fell by €7.8bn to €33.3bn, and was €14bn lower than in 2007.

“It is a stark reminder if we needed one of the extent of the fiscal crisis affecting our country,” said Revenue chairperson, Josephine Feehily.

The biggest shortfall arose in capital gains tax, which fell by 62%, while receipts from stamp duty declined by 43% largely from the fall-off in share values and property prices respectively.

Ms Feehily also forecast the amount of tax written off, which increased by 71% last year, would rise further in 2010.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Ms Feehily said the tax authorities were well aware of the challenges facing taxpayers and businesses in managing cash flow and accessing credit in the current climate.

She revealed instalment arrangements, which can allow payment to be deferred by up to 12 months, had been reached with 13,000 individuals and firms covering payment of €119m in taxes.

A further 1,100 special cases got even longer periods to arrange payments totalling €76m in recognition of particular challenges they faced in paying taxes as they fell due.

However, Ms Feehily insisted the focus remained on timely compliance and payment of tax by all taxpayers.

She said the vast majority of the €221.5m written off in taxes last year related to companies which were insolvent or had ceased trading. The number of companies wound up voluntarily more than doubled in 2009 to 1,147, while 192 firms were placed in receivership – up from just 47 a year earlier.

Some 12,400 audits carried out by Revenue officials last year resulted in yields of €602m, while over 361,000 less intensive assurance checks realised a further €68m.

Ms Feehily said tax officials hoped to get information over the coming months on a major Revenue investigation into offshore trusts and bank accounts which has already yielded €17.6m from 94 cases last year.

The Revenue will be able to access data on all money transfers over €5,000 between 1997 and 2008 between Ireland and offshore tax havens like Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Ms Feehily said the tax authorities will initially concentrate on transfers during that period to and from the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. A separate Revenue initiative to target untaxed funds in excess of €100,000 on deposit had recouped €76.3m by the end of last year from some 1,200 voluntary disclosures.

Ms Feehily described 2009 as a difficult year for Revenue as it had lost over 500 staff last year with further losses already this year, although the Government has sanctioned an additional 200 posts to be filled in 2010.

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