Only 15 taxpayers have yet approached Revenue to declare offshore assets since Minister for Finance Michael Noonan announced a new hardline approach on offshore tax evasion, reports The Irish Times.
The Minister signalled in his budget speech last October that anyone with undeclared offshore assets will lose the option after May 1st of voluntarily disclosing details to the tax authorities in return for a significantly reduced penalty and the chance to remain anonymous.
The measure will hit not only large-scale tax evaders but also ordinary taxpayers who may have a bank account, pension or holiday property abroad, including in Northern Ireland and in Britain.
In a written reply to a Parliamentary Question from Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, Mr Noonan said 13 voluntary disclosures relating to offshore matters have been received since his budget speech, “resulting in settlements amounting to €188,650 in tax, interest and penalties”.
Two other cases are currently been signalled with an advance payment of €47,000 made “on account” in one of them, the Minister said.
Mr Doherty had sought details of the number of voluntary disclosures under the new measure and the amount of penalties foregone by allowing taxpayers a window up to May 1st next to declare any assets held abroad.
Mr Noonan said it was impossible to say precisely what level of penalties might have been due had the measure been introduced immediately. However, he said the Revenue’s best estimate was that “the penalties to be imposed would have been some €75,000 higher”.
Revenue is currently sending letters to just under 500,000 Irish self-assessed taxpayers, inviting them to review their tax affairs to ensure any undeclared liabilities on assets held abroad are disclosed to Revenue before the May 1st deadline.
In his written reply to Mr Doherty, the Minister warned: “Anybody who has tax liabilities relating to matters of that kind and who does not act to address them before May 1st will face the prospect of substantially higher penalties, publication in the Quarterly List of Tax Defaulters and possible prosecution.”
He said the Revenue was “at the forefront of international developments for automatic exchange of information” on tax and assets held between different countries in an era of increased global financial and tax transparency,
“Revenue has advised me that they are considering carefully how to make the best possible use of all data sources of this kind to identify any cases of tax evasion by Irish residents using offshore accounts, structures or assets, and that any cases discovered will be rigorously pursued,” Mr Noonan said.
Revenue commissioner Liam Irwin said on Wednesday that Revenue’s response to serious cases of noncompliance would be “robust and determined”.
“We use all the powers at our disposal, up to and including criminal prosecution, and the consequences for individuals can be very grave,” Mr Irwin said.
He referred to the jailing last week of former Event Elephant director Alan Barrett for VAT fraud and tax evasion. Barrett was jailed for three and a half years with the last 12 months suspended for offences involving a total of €1.07 million to which he had leaded guilty.
“Revenue operates on the presumption of honesty,” said Mr Irwin. “However, anyone who engages in evasion can expect a strong Revenue response.”