Sinn Fein TD and Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has released information provided to him in a Parliamentary Question response by the Department of Finance that shows that an investment of €6.5 million in 125 additional trained revenue staff would generate €100 million next year from targeting black market activity and increased audit activity.
The Sinn Fein deputy said the government had an obligation to exercise imaginative proposals to generate revenue in the forthcoming budget and this was one such proposal.
Deputy Doherty said:
"Sinn Féin, has consistently argued for an increase in revenue staff to target black market activity and increase auditing.
"In a recent PQ response to me, the Minister for Finance has admitted that the Revenue Commissioners are themselves of this view and have made the case to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure that an increase of 125 skilled staff at a cost of €6.5 million would generate revenue of €100 million per annum.
"We know from studies such as the recent Retail Ireland report that black market activity is rife in this state. We also know that the deficit has to be reduced through growth, revenue and savings measures. The government has an obligation to introduce imaginative proposals to generate revenue in the forthcoming budget, rather than going to the same empty family purses each time, like they plan to in this budget. This is an imaginative, common sense proposal.
"If the Revenue are allowed to do their job - if they are resourced and are staffed to tackle black market activity and fraudulent declarations - money can be raised in the budget that will not have a harmful effect on families or the wider economy." ENDS
Editor's note: PQ follows.
To ask the Minister for Finance if an estimate has been of the tax that could be raised for the State if Revenue audit activity was increased by 20% in 2013 specifically to target black market activity; and if there is a cost associated with increasing audit acitivity, for example, additional recruited staff for Revenue..
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 4th October, 2012.
Ref No: 42265/12
Minister for Finance ( Mr Noonan) :
Shadow/hidden economy activity creates distortions in the economy and competitive disadvantages for compliant businesses. For these reasons, Revenue focuses on deterring shadow/hidden economy activity and non-compliance through its audit and investigation programmes based on risk analysis, use of Revenue powers and their intelligence and information systems. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that its compliance programmes are under constant review to ensure that they are focussed on the areas of greatest risk, including risks from the shadow economy, and this this approach contributes to optimising the effectiveness of their audit resources. The results of its audit and compliance programmes are published each year in the Revenue Annual Report and in 2011, Revenue carried out over 11,000 audits that resulted in additional yield of €440.5m to the Exchequer, with a further
€81.3m collected from other compliance interventions and assurance checks,
The type of initiatives aimed specifically at shadow economy activity include:-
• Joint Investigation and information sharing activities with the Department of Social Protection aimed at uncovering either non-declaration or under declaration of income and/or fraudulent DSP claims;
• Strengthening tax legislation to provide for a robust framework within which the Revenue Commissioners may tackle tax and duty evasion, including recent provisions relating to the making of returns of transactions by merchant acquirers and the more effective investigation of white-collar crime;
• A comprehensive package of measures in relation to Excise (Oils) including, a requirement for separate licences for auto-fuel traders and marked fuel traders, a requirement to have a separate licence for every premises or place at which the fuel concerned is dealt in, and a requirement that a licence must be clearly displayed at the premises or place;
• Revenue’s tobacco strategy, “Strategy On Combating the Illicit Tobacco Trade (2011- 2013)” was published on the Revenue website in June 2011. This three-year strategy is underpinned by annual action plans;
• Regulations introduced in 2011 requiring Government Departments and State Bodies to supply details of payments made to the Revenue Commissioners;
• Revenue has a prioritised focus on those sectors that traditionally have been susceptible to shadow activity such as cash businesses. All possible sources of information, including following up on services advertised on TV, radio, local newspapers, internet, special interest publications are used by Revenue;
• Holding meetings with trade and representative bodies through The Hidden Economy Monitoring Group where mutual interest issues are discussed;
• Focussing Revenue investigations on the use of computer programmes or electronic devices to alter or conceal sales records;
• Streetscape programmes, in which every cash business in an area is visited, without prior announcement, have been carried out to detect unregistered businesses and non-recording of cash sales.
The Deputy will appreciate that the scale and range of activities carried out by the Revenue Commissioners to tackle the shadow economy are extensive. In addition, the nature of these activities is highly resource intensive however, as is the case with all public service organisations, the Revenue Commissioners must play its part in meeting Government policy on public service staffing numbers. I am satisfied that Revenue is optimising the outputs from its existing audit and compliance resource, and as the Deputy will see from the list of activities above, audit, which is costly for business and for Revenue, can only be a part of a broader strategy. As part of its published Comprehensive Review of Expenditure for 2011, the Revenue Commissioners indicated that by increasing audit, investigation and compliance resources by approximately125 qualified staff, which they estimate would cost €6.5m per annum, an estimated additional yield of €100m per annum could be achieved. I can confirm to the Deputy that all proposals of this nature are kept under ongoing review by my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Government in the context of other tasks assigned to the Revenue Commissioners and competing demands for resources across the public service.