Thursday, 9 November 2017
Department of Finance
62. To ask the Minister for Finance if a bank (details supplied) acceded to requests from the Revenue Commissioners for data held in the Isle of Man and Jersey; the outcome of the Revenue Commissioners investigation that commenced in 2004; if tax was recovered as a result of this investigation; if so, the amount recovered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47600/17]
63. To ask the Minister for Finance the position regarding current investigations being undertaken by the Revenue Commissioners in respect of offshore accounts; if current investigations involve the State supported banks; if so, the banks involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47601/17]
65. To ask the Minister for Finance if it is against the law to move data from Ireland to another jurisdiction specifically for the intention to hide data from the Revenue Commissioners; when this law was introduced; if they are retrospective in nature; if the Revenue Commissioners will commence further investigations as a result of papers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47603/17]
66. To ask the Minister for Finance his views on Ireland's role in structures that allow corporations to reduce their tax bill in view of the release of papers (details supplied); his views on the impact on Ireland's reputation; his plans to review current structures to prevent such practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47604/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 63, 65 and 66 together.
As respects question No. 62, I am advised by Revenue that section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997 imposes a statutory obligation on Revenue to maintain the confidentiality of information provided by a taxpayer, or obtained by Revenue from a taxpayer, for the purposes of the various taxation codes.
As the Deputy’s question relates to specific taxpayers, Revenue is, accordingly, precluded from providing a response in relation to the specific taxpayers referred to by the Deputy.
As respects the outcome of the Revenue investigation referred to by the Deputy, I am advised that, in 2003, Revenue commenced an investigation into the use of offshore bank accounts and other financial products to evade tax. During the initial phase of the investigation, taxpayers were afforded an opportunity to voluntarily disclose previously undeclared liabilities. The subsequent phase was undertaken primarily by way of enquiry letters issued to taxpayers on the basis of information relating to transfers to, and from, the State, involving a number of other jurisdictions, which was obtained from financial institutions on foot of High Court orders. The amount collected by Revenue over the course of this investigation in tax, interest and penalties exceeds €1 billion. Work is ongoing on a number of cases as part of this investigation.
As respects question No. 63, I am informed that the international environment has changed significantly in the years since the offshore assets investigation was initiated, with the emergence of closer cooperation between tax authorities worldwide aimed at those who hide their profits or gains offshore. Initiatives such as FATCA (an Inter-Governmental agreement to share financial account information with the United States), DAC (EU Directives on Administrative Cooperation), and CRS (the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard) are all now helping to ensure that tax administrations have greater visibility in respect of the offshore assets and income of their residents. Revenue inform me that they will make full use of information of this kind to identify and pursue those who have attempted to use offshore accounts, structures or assets to evade their tax obligations.
In the context of these new information sharing initiatives on off-shore income and assets becoming available to Revenue, it is no longer appropriate to provide incentives to tax defaulters to come forward and to disclose previously undisclosed income or assets. Accordingly, my predecessor, Deputy Noonan, introduced specific measures in the Finance Act 2016 to ensure that, as and from May 2017, tax defaulters whose default relates to offshore matters will be unable to avail of the benefits of the voluntary disclosure regime. Anyone who did not come forward by 4 May 2017 to regularise his or her tax affairs now faces the prospect of substantially higher penalties, publication in the Quarterly List of Tax Defaulters and possible prosecution.
Revenue is aware of the recent publication by media outlets of information deriving from the “Paradise Papers”. If these papers identify individuals or entities associated with Ireland, Revenue will examine the cases and intervene as appropriate. This could involve an enquiry letter, an audit or, where there are indications of a tax offence, investigation with a view to possible prosecution. Revenue will also work in close cooperation with other tax administrations, in the framework of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Cooperation, in addressing issues raised by the papers, and will, as appropriate share information under existing legal frameworks.
As respects question No. 65, I am informed by Revenue that while there is no specific restriction on the moving of data to another jurisdiction, section 886 of the TCA 1997 requires that taxpayers must keep all records that are required to ensure a full and detailed tax return in respect of income tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax can be made.
Records includes any records, accounts, documents and any other data maintained manually or electronically which a person is obliged under the various Taxes Acts to keep, issue, or produce for inspection. The records must be kept for a period of 6-years, or a greater period if the person has failed to make a return of income, or where a transaction is the subject of an investigation or proceedings.
I am also informed that section 1078 of the TCA 1997 criminalises failures to comply with the provisions of the various Taxes Acts which require the furnishing of returns of income, profits or gains and the keeping and retention of books, records, accounts and other documents for tax purposes. Specifically, the destruction or concealment of records from an authorised officer is a criminal offence under section 1078 (2)(h) and (hh) of the TCA 1997.
It is also an offence under section 1078 to be knowingly concerned in the evasion of tax, or to knowingly deliver any incorrect return, statement, accounts or information in connection with any tax.
As respects question No. 66, the stories reported by the ICIJ make a number of points about changes in the Irish tax system. They rightly point out that Ireland has already acted to address definitively the issues around stateless and double Irish companies.
Multinational corporations’ tax planning has been subjected to intensive international examination in recent years, in particular in the OECD’s BEPS Project. Tax administrations worldwide, including many non-OECD countries who have committed to implementing the anti-avoidance recommendations arising from the BEPS Project, have agreed that addressing the global problem of corporations exploiting gaps and mismatches between different countries' tax rules requires the widest international co-ordination.
Ireland is committed to working with our international partners to ensure that agreed measures addressing these issues are widely adopted. Ireland has already taken a number of steps towards implementing the BEPS Actions. In addition, the Coffey Review sets out a roadmap for implementing the remaining OECD recommendations, beginning with the launch of a consultation process which is now underway, and Ireland will also be implementing the EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives, which give coordinated effect to specific BEPS Actions across the EU, to the timelines set out in the Directives.
Unilateral national actions will not address multinational corporations’ tax planning. Attributing international arrangements put in place by multinational corporations to Ireland’s role is damaging and inaccurate. While offering a competitive regime that builds the economy and provides jobs for our people, Ireland continually monitors international tax developments and will take any actions needed to implement enhanced international standards.
Ireland meets the highest standards in transparency and this has been recently verified, for a second time, by the OECD-led Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. In August 2017, following an in-depth Peer Review, the Global Forum again awarded Ireland the highest rating, making Ireland one of only a small minority of the 145-member Global Forum to achieve this rating.