Taoiseach insists State will pursue 'Paradise Papers' tax avoiders

The world's richest people are using offshore bank accounts to avoid paying tax

Taoiseach insists State will pursue 'Paradise Papers' tax avoiders

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the third Plenary Session in the Royal Hospital Kilmainhim of the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dublin | Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted the Revenue Commissioner will pursue anyone shown to have avoided Irish tax in the so-called 'Paradise Papers.'

The series of documents, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on Sunday evening, highlighted how the world's richest people are using offshore bank accounts to avoid paying tax.

A host of Irish names are included in the leak.

The papers also outline how the two biggest banks in the country helped their clients to avoid tax by using the offshore accounts - however, both Bank of Ireland and AIB have insisted they no longer use the tax havens mentioned.

Speaking this afternoon, Leo Varadkar said Revenue is set to review the more than 13 million files that name Irish banks, actors, musicians and business people.

He insisted Revenue has a good track record - noting that it brought in €1bn in unpaid overseas tax in the last few years:

"The Revenue Commissioners are going to examine these papers," he said. "The Minister for Finance has spoken to the chairperson of the Revenue Commissioners about this already."

"If further action is required against any person of company, it will be taken and I think it is important to point out that the Revenue Commissioners have been very active and very effective in this area already."

Prominent names

The revelations have prompted calls for the Government to outline how much it knew about the bank's offshore activities and the wealthy individuals who were able to avoid paying tax as a result.

U2 frontman Bono is among those listed in the documents, alongside actors from Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown's Boys.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson, Michael McGrath, said the revelations will be a kick in teeth for people who work hard and pay their taxes in good faith:

"Most ordinary people who are getting up in the morning; who are going to work and people who are paying tax - they want to know that everybody is paying their fair share," he said.

"I think if you are tax resident in Ireland then you should not be availing of complex offshore structures to avoid your responsibilities to this State."

Facilitating avoidance

He said the Irish people will be particularly infuriated that AIB continued to target customers who wanted to avoid paying tax after it had been bailed to the tune of €7bn by the taxpayer.

"The outstanding question of whether or not AIB as group complied with a 2015 court order needs to be answered," he said.

"I know they have closed down these overseas subsidiaries that were involved in facilitating offshore activity - but I think it will stick in the craw of ordinary Irish people who paid a huge price for the bank bailout, that [...] they continued this practice of facilitating tax avoidance."

Tax transparency

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said Ireland was already found to be fully compliant by the OECD when it comes to tax transparency.

The papers feature some of the wealthiest individuals in the world - and also allege that one offshore investment leads to US President Donald Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross.

The papers claim he has a stake in a shipping company that has received more than US$68m (€58.5m) in revenue since 2014 from a Russian energy company co-owned by the son-in-law of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The affairs of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II also feature in the documents.