Ireland: Opposition calls on Revenue to recoup HSBC funds ‘taken from ordinary citizens’
11 February 2015
Posted by: Author: Colin Gleeson
Author: Colin Gleeson (The Irish Times)
Oxfam Ireland says tax avoidance is ‘driving rapidly increasing inequality’
Fianna Fáil has called on a specialist branch of the Revenue Commissioners to "fully investigate” revelations that a huge cache of secret files from the Swiss branch of HSBC includes Irish people who made tax settlements with it for more than €4.5 million.
The files, which cover accounts with HSBC Private Bank in Geneva holding more than $100 billion, have led to investigations around the globe, resulting in massive tax settlements.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath yesterday called on the offshore assets group at the Revenue to "fully investigate” the information that is coming to light from the files.
"So far, 20 Irish account holders have made settlements with the Revenue Commissioners worth over €4.5 million relating to the Swiss branch of HSBC,” said Mr McGrath.
"While this is a significant amount of money in itself, it is relatively small in the context of the amount of money that has been found to be held offshore. There may be scope for a considerable additional windfall for the exchequer from a full investigation of the source of all funds held by Irish residents in these accounts and whether their tax liabilities have been fully met.
"Ordinary taxpayers have been shocked by revelations of elaborate tax evasion schemes conducted through a labyrinth of offshore arrangements. They can reasonably expect that every effort is made to clamp down on this sort of activity and recoup the revenue that the State was denied.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the funds lost to the exchequer "was ultimately taken instead from ordinary citizens”.
€3 billion in accounts "Leaked documents show that 350 clients associated with Ireland held more than €3 billion in accounts with the bank,” he said.
"The bankers advised clients on how to keep money hidden from State authorities and offered deals to help tax dodgers stay ahead of the law.”
The party’s finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, said he was "not one bit surprised” by the reports: "It’s not the first time the tax-dodging habits of some in the wealthy elite have been exposed.
"Nobody should be naive enough to think there is not widespread evasion occurring. At the same time, Revenue is focused on deducting money from the low paid and social welfare payments because of the property tax.
"It is also of concern that it is being reported that, unlike other countries, Ireland is not preparing to take legal action against HSBC. This is a bizarre decision and I will question the Minister as to why Ireland is not fully asserting its rights.”Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarken said tax avoidance was "driving rapidly increasing inequality” and urged European leaders to make tax "more transparent”.
"This scandal shows why it’s absolutely important that Europe brings more transparency on tax matters,” he said. "European governments should implement automatic information exchange between tax authorities as soon as possible to close off loopholes.
"We also need to set up public registries of the real owners of so-called ‘shell’ companies – governments will have the chance to do so when they give force to the EU’s anti-money laundering directive. Another part of the solution is to adopt public country-by-country reporting so we know where companies work and where they really pay their taxes.”
This article first appeared on irishtimes.com.