By Harry Keaney
Ireland has been cracking down on tax cheats, and the clampdown is continuing. Even high-profile and influential individuals, such as former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, have not escaped. Now, even the bank accounts of non-residents, such as emigrants, may be checked.
The latest effort focuses on banks and other institutions, and non-resident accounts on which tax on interest does not have to be paid if the holder is actually resident outside the country.
Under new legislation, the revenue commissioners have been given a range of new powers and have begun recruiting 37 extra staff to specialize in investigating tax evasion at large corporations.
The commissioners are also taking on five more accountants and two more lawyers.
"Audits of large companies were becoming increasingly complex," commission chairman Dermot Quigley said, "and the new powers given to the revenue commissioners under the Finance Act had opened up a whole new area for audit activity which had previously been closed off."
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Individual accounts in Irish banks, including non-resident accounts, may now be inspected by officers of the revenue commissioners.
Quigley explained that until this year, a tax inspector couldn’t enter a bank premises to examine records, except in limited circumstances. "Now we have the power to carry out full on-site audits of financial institutions’ tax liabilities and we also have additional powers to do an effective audit of DIRT returns," he said.
Quigley added that before the changes to the Finance Act, the commissioners could not do any spot checks of non-resident accounts to determine if the owners really lived outside the State.
DIRT is deposit interest retention tax, which bona fide non-residents of Ireland, for example immigrants in the U.S., do not have to pay.
Also, a secret "whistleblower" fund has been set up to reward bank officials who pass on information on tax-evasion practices, the Irish Independent reported last week.
Is the Celtic Tiger becoming a headless chicken?
In both Dublin and Dundalk, buyers have been queuing for up to four days in the hope of acquiring the property they want.
In Dublin, more than 20 people waited outside a realtor’s offices to buy homes that didn’t go on sale for three days. In fact, so many people were huddled outside the offices of Hooke & MacDonald that passers-by thought they were refugees, down-and-outs or even some kind of demonstrators.
Some of those in the line had drafted in friends and family to hold their place. "It’s the least we can do. I don’t envy any young person buying their first home," the mother of one prospective buyer told an Irish Times reporter after completing a four-hour shift sitting in a deck chair.
In Dundalk, up to 30 people have been queuing up to four days at a housing development. Some paid students up to £50 a day to hold their place.
The Irish Chamber of Commerce in the U.S. will host its networking session. "Business After Hours," on June 16 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Gallagher’s Steak House, 228 West 52nd St., NYC. The price for the event, which includes two drinks and Gallagher’s popular hors d’oeuvres, is $25 for ICCUSA members and $35 for guests.
Reservations, call Padma at (212) 248-0008.
In Ireland’s construction boom, skilled workers, it seems, are also reaping the rewards. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy told the Dáil last Thursday that skilled workers in the construction industry had the highest wage increases in the year up to September 1998. The pay movements were recorded by the central statistics office.
Software piracy continues to be a problem in Ireland. According to an international watchdog group called Business Software Alliance, more than half of all programs used in Irish offices last year were unlicensed versions. A survey by the group claims the pirating of software cost Irish business more than £45 million last year, as well as thousands of jobs.
Software piracy is also a major problem in Greece and Spain, according to BSA.
Tayto for sale
Tayto, the Irish manufacturer of chips, or what the Irish call "crisps," has been offered for sale by its U.S. owner, TLC Beatrice. It is thought Tayto may fetch a price of more than £100 million.