By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Tens of thousands of tax dodgers who failed to meet an amnesty deadline in the Deposit Interest Retention Tax scandal were warned this week that they will now be hunted down and face the full consequences.
The Revenue Commissioners said Monday that they had received _176 million in voluntary disclosures before a Nov. 15 deadline.
Those who owned up and settled received favorable terms and had their penalties capped.
The voluntary disclosures involved 3,500 people holding an estimated 6,500 bogus DIRT tax accounts — a handful of the false account holders.
Eleven people each paid more than _1 million in penalties and 60 paid more than _500,000.
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The Commissioners’ chairman, Dermot Quigley, said he will use new powers to relentlessly hunt those who didn’t come forward, name and shame them and take them to court.
He said the Commissioners already have information on the identities of a substantial number of account holders and the audit and investigation team had been beefed up with an extra 160 staff.
“We will pursue the full tax, interest and penalties owed, with publication of settlements and prosecution in appropriate cases,” Quigley said.
The first High Court orders requiring banks to disclose information on the bogus account holders are expected to be lodged within days.
“The investigations will clearly extend over a number of years ahead,” Quigley said. “Revenue will, however, be prioritizing cases based on the size of the accounts.
“We are determined to see this project through. If we need more resources, we will ask for them.”
An unprecedented inquiry by the Oireachtas public finances watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, has already led to a trawl through the books of the country’s 37 banks and financial institutions going back to 1986.
That “look-back audit” by Revenue inspectors resulted in the institutions paying _173 million in DIRT.
DIRT was levied at 35 percent and the financial institutions were required to collect it from their accounts for the Revenue Commissioners.
The second stage of the investigation now under way involves demands for the unpaid tax on the capital in the bogus non-resident accounts from the individuals who opened them.
DIRT was not payable on offshore accounts and people used false foreign addresses to evade it.
The Commissioners estimate there may be 50,000 bogus accounts owing hundreds of millions, but many observers believe the problem is much more extensive.
People used the bogus accounts to hide “hot” untaxed cash earned in the black economy when there was a high tax regime. The Revenue Commissioners are now seeking the unpaid VAT, company and personal income taxes involved.