Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 08 October, 1997
Written Answers. - Off-shore Accounts.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
44. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the discussions, if any, he has had with the Revenue Commissioners, arising from the findings of the Tribunal of Inquiry (Dunnes Payments); if he has satisfied himself with the level of supervision of off-shore accounts, particularly in view of the comments of Mr. Justice Brian McCracken in chapter six of his report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15648/97]
Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy) Charlie McCreevy
Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Let me say at the outset that the examination of the tax affairs of any individual or institution in the State is a matter solely for the Revenue Commissioners. The Minister for Finance does not get involved in such cases for obvious reasons. This is the position which has been accepted in the House since the foundation of the State. I understand that my predecessor, Deputy Quinn, on radio recently entirely endorsed that position.
On the matter of the findings of the Dunnes Stores tribunal of inquiry, the Revenue Commissioners have already made it clear, following the tribunal report, that any action needed to uphold the implementation of the tax code in the light of the information contained in the report is being taken.
Immediately on publication of the tribunal report, I requested the Revenue Commissioners, in conjunction with my Department, to carry out a review of their existing powers, which are substantial, in the light of the findings of the tribunal.
The last major change in Revenue powers was given effect to in the 1992 Finance Act and included reporting arrangements for domestic institutions in relation to the opening of foreign bank accounts by Irish residents. Revenue powers were further extended in 1993, and penalties for tax evasion were significantly increased, in conjunction with the introduction of the tax amnesty. As regards access to bank accounts, the Revenue Commissioners are empowered to seek access through the courts, or, in certain circumstances, through the appeal commissioners, to the bank accounts of named individuals resident in the State.
I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that the existence of these various powers is an important factor in underpinning voluntary compliance with the tax laws by the vast majority of taxpayers. Where necessary, the powers are formally brought into play by Revenue in support of their investigations. It is important that the right balance be maintained so that adequate powers are available and their use is targeted mainly on those actually evading tax. However, if the  present review of Revenue powers indicates that additional powers are required and these are shown to be desirable and likely to be effective, they will be included in the Finance Bill.
The whole area of off-shore accounts is a difficult one. The possibility of obtaining information from foreign authorities is severely constrained. The Deputy will be aware that the terms of reference of the Moriarty tribunal call on the tribunal to make whatever recommendations it considers necessary, inter alia, for the protection of the State's tax base from fraud or evasion in the establishment and maintenance of off-shore accounts, and to recommend whatever changes in the tax law should be made to achieve this end.
Dáil Éireann 481 Written Answers. Off-shore Accounts.