Dáil Éireann - Volume 596 - 01 February, 2005
Written Answers. - Tax Evasion.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
86. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the number of breaches detected of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act 1993 in respect of each year since 1994; the number of prosecutions initiated and convictions secured arising from such detection; if he has satisfied himself that the law is being applied in the manner intended; if his attention has been drawn to comments made by a person (details supplied) regarding the difficulties faced in initiating prosecution for breaches of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2473/05]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are two ways in which a taxpayer may have been in breach of the amnesty — first, in making a false declaration or, second, in not making a declaration. I am informed that the Revenue Commissioners do not have figures for the number of detected breaches of the amnesty.  Given the confidentiality conditions built into the 1993 amnesty legislation, such breaches are difficult to identify and prove.
Individuals and companies have been successfully prosecuted in recent years as a result of Revenue investigations, and although these investigations have in some instances involved consideration of possible amnesty breaches, it has not generally been possible to obtain the evidence necessary to meet the required standards of beyond reasonable doubt from an amnesty perspective. However one individual has been successfully prosecuted to date for failure to comply with the obligatory provisions of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993, following a Revenue investigation and is awaiting sentence. There was also a recent jail sentence imposed in connection with an incorrect amnesty declaration.
Revenue’s criminal investigation programmes have been refocused recently with the establishment of an investigations and prosecutions division, one of whose functions is to increase the number of prosecutions for serious tax evasion. Many of the cases currently under investigation relate to tax offences committed in recent years and do not therefore involve consideration of amnesty issues. However, a number of cases have been identified which could involve offences in relation to the amnesty and they will be investigated with a view to taking a criminal prosecution.
I am aware of the comments made by the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners at the Committee of Public Accounts in December 2004, when responding to questions on the 2003 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the issue of the tax amnesty. The chairman referred to the serious difficulties the Revenue Commissioners had in obtaining admissible evidence, due to the confidentiality safeguards enshrined in the amnesty legislation. He went on to say that there were two cases coming before the courts in the near future and that a great deal would depend on the outcome of these, as to whether the other cases being investigated would go for prosecution. One of these is the successful Revenue conviction mentioned earlier.
In view of this, I am satisfied the Revenue Commissioners are making every effort to ensure the law is applied in the manner intended by the legislation as passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
87. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the number of court prosecutions initiated as a result of tax evasion in respect of each year since 1997; the number of cases in which convictions were secured; the number of cases in which prison sentences were imposed and the details of the sentence in each case; if he has satisfied himself with the level of court cases taken, in view of the high level of evasion; if he will report on the work of the investigations and prosecutions div ision of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2472/05]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the  following table provides information on court prosecutions initiated for tax evasion.
Revenue has a very clear policy of prosecuting cases of serious tax evasion. The investigations and prosecutions division is responsible for this. Following Revenue re-structuring in 2003, all investigation activity was consolidated in this division with a remit to co-ordinate all Revenue prosecution work and in particular to increase the number of criminal investigations for serious tax offences and ultimately to increase the number of prosecutions. The number of investigators was also increased for this purpose.
Recent figures indicate that this approach is proving successful. There are currently 46 cases under investigation for potential prosecution, the DPP is considering seven cases and has given directions to prosecute in another five. Bench warrants have been issued in three cases for failure to attend court and four cases are in the court process. This is the highest combined figure to date and vindicates the decision to concentrate Revenue’s prosecution resources in one area.
Dáil Éireann 596 Written Answers. Tax Evasion.