People with off-shore accounts face jail from May

High-profile businessmen, celebrities, and other individuals avoiding tax by keeping more than €100,000 in off-shore accounts will be prosecuted and potentially jailed for the “criminal offence” from next May under strict new laws.

People with off-shore accounts face jail from May

Ireland’s most senior tax official confirmed the situation during a detailed Dáil meeting in which it was also revealed that 40%-68% of people who self-assess for tax in this country under-pay the tax-man by thousands of euro every year.

Speaking during the latest meeting of the cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Revenue chairman Niall Cody said under plans due to be detailed in full next week, the Government will impose a fresh crackdown on international tax-dodgers.

Currently, anyone found holding money in off-shore accounts to avoid paying full taxes can benefit from a 10% discount on the money they owe; keep their identity confidential; and avoid prosecution, because of the money which can be retrieved under the deals.

However, under measures flagged by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in Tuesday’s budget and which will be further explained in next Thursday’s finance bill, Mr Cody said the discount, privacy and amnesty protections will be scrapped from May 1.

From then on, Revenue will seek prosecutions for the “criminal offence” regardless of who is involved: “It’s an anti-amnesty law for serious tax evasion and involves off-shore accounts. It is a straight liability offence. Having the off-shore account will be a criminal offence. If a footprint is found, there are going to be the consequences.”

Meanwhile, the State’s Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy has revealed that 40%-68% of self-assessed people in this country underpay the tax authorities by thousands of euro every year.

Speaking at the same committee meeting, the independent financial watchdog said a random Revenue review of 400 tax audits between 2013 and 2015 “consistently” found “around 40% of [self-assessed] taxpayers’ have under-declared their tax liability”, while a separate targeted review in 2015 revealed a 68% non-compliance rate.

During the same meeting it also emerged that Revenue has until January 2 to provide the EU with an exact figure for how much money multi-national tech giant Apple allegedly owes this country.

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