REVENUE OFFICIALS HAVE clawed back millions of euro from people evading tax and are planning to clamp down on those trying to skirt the law.
That is according to the annual report for the Revenue Commissioners, which also showed that the organisation clawed just under €8 million from offshore accounts.
The way in which companies use offshore assets to evade, which is illegal, or avoid, which is legal, taxes came under international scrutiny last year following the publication of the Panama Papers.
According to the Revenue board’s review of the year, “tax evasion and avoidance continue to be top of our agenda”.
“The Panama Papers were a reminder that offshore evasion has not gone away and we have been active both nationally and internationally in confronting and challenging such evasion,” it said.
“We will consider how to make use of all data at our disposal in order to identify tax evasion, including where use is made of offshore structures.”
The yield for investigations relating to both tax avoidance and offshore tax evasion did drop during the year.
The yield from investigations into offshore assets was €7.7 million in 2016, down slightly from €8.2 million in 2015.
Revenue said that its ability to act against offshore evasion will be soon be strengthened considerably “by data received under a series of new, international, automatic exchange of information agreements”.
To date, Revenue has seized a total of €2.8 billion from over 35,000 major “legacy” investigation projects, including its offshore assets project.
Many of the cases relate to bogus non-resident bank accounts owned illegally by Irish citizens. These setups involve someone’s money being held in a bank account outside of Ireland to avoid paying taxes here.
Revenue’s yield relating to tax avoidance cases was down significantly.
In 2016, the body settled 40 tax avoidance cases with a yield of €10 million. In 2015, Revenue settled 160 tax avoidance cases, with a yield of €42 million.
Revenue did not immediately respond to an request for comment when asked why the 2016 yield was so much lower than the year before.
However, the 2015 report did note that “a number of” the 160 tax avoidance cases settled during the year were part of the Qualifying Avoidance Disclosure scheme in operation until June 2015.
This was an initiative that ran from the end of October 2014 to June 2015 which gave taxpayers trying to avoid tax an opportunity to make a “qualified disclosure” in order to settle their affairs with Revenue and minimise penalties that would normally apply.
A similar exemption will soon come to an end for people looking to gain a tax advantage through offshore assets.
At the moment, people who might be evading tax through the use of offshore assets can make voluntary disclosures to the taxman. When they do this, they pay lower penalties and avoid prosecution.
However, from May 4 this will no longer be the case.
Revenue said that tax defaulters using offshore facilities will face penalties of up to 100% of the tax evaded, publication in the list of tax defaulters and potentially criminal prosecution.