By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Despite pay-up-or-else warnings, tens of thousands of bogus DIRT (Deposit Interest Retention Tax) account holders are still dodging their taxes.
They have been given repeated warnings by the Revenue Commissioners but are failing to put their hands up and come forward to settle their affairs.
A Revenue spokesman said less than _10 million has been handed over so far in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.
“The amount we have collected is still low,” a Revenue spokesman said. “But if people don’t avail of the opportunity to come forward now, they will find themselves in big trouble.
“This is not a bluff. We will dedicate whatever resources are required to uncover each one of these accounts, no matter how long it takes.”
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A so-called “look-back audit” by Revenue inspectors going back to 1986 has already resulted in the country’s 37 banks and financial institutions paying _173 million in DIRT.
DIRT was supposed to have been collected by the institutions from their accounts for the state.
Now the Revenue Commissioners want the unpaid tax on the cash in the accounts from the individuals who opened bogus non-resident accounts. DIRT was not payable on offshore accounts and people used bogus foreign addresses to evade it.
Many people used the accounts to hide “hot” untaxed cash earned in the black economy. The authorities are now seeking the unpaid VAT, company and personal income taxes involved.
The Revenue Commissioners estimate there may be 50,000 bogus account holders, but many observers think the problem is much bigger.
No one knows for sure just how much tax is outstanding. There have been estimates that it could be as high as a billion but the Revenue are refusing to speculate.
Audits of accounts in one town, Miltown Malbay in County Clare, showed that up to nine times the DIRT liability could be due in other taxes.
“We got a fair bit of information when we did the look-back audits and we have new powers where we can go in and look at accounts on the signature of a Revenue Commissioner. We no longer have to go to the High Court.”
The final deadline is Nov. 15
“If people don’t come forward they will face full interest and penalties,” the spokesman said. “That could be 300-400 hundred percent. People will be named and shamed and they run the risk of criminal prosecution.”
The spokesman said people might have put off dealing with the problem during the summer holidays and there could be a last minute rush to pay up before the deadline.