Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013: Committee Stage

8:45 pm

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

This section deals with offences by a body corporate, namely a business or a company. Lots of banks, for example, are companies and, in that context, how strong is this section? Perhaps the issue is dealt with in other sections of the legislation, but the references to banks and corporate organisations in the Bill seem to be very light, in terms of sanctions. A fine of €500,000 for an individual is very serious but for one of the major banks, a fine of that magnitude might represent 33 minutes worth of interest on a loan account. It is not very severe. I would suggest body corporates should be dealt with far more seriously than individuals because for many big businesses €500,000 is a drop in the ocean.

The DIRT inquiry uncovered the biggest tax fraud in the history of the State by AIB, involving deliberate falsification of customer account information. AIB bank ended up paying almost €100 million in unpaid DIRT but it used its corporate power to prevent Revenue from pursuing it for interest and penalties, which Revenue was entitled to do, by threatening to go to court and all the way to Europe, if necessary. In that way, Revenue faced the prospect of years of legal battles with no guarantee that it would get the money in the end. AIB ended up getting away with paying a relatively small amount in interest and penalties. If a company is before a committee of inquiry which is guilty of tax fraud to the tune of millions, potentially, a fine of €500,000 is buttons. I ask the Minister to consider this. A fine of that level is of no consequence to many large businesses. I would like to see far more serious sanctions.

As I understand it, the sanctions for individuals are a fine of €500,000 and/or a period in jail-----


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.