Opening Statement at PANA Committee meeting
Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Finance and Expenditure and Reform
11 July 2017
Check Against Delivery
Good afternoon members.
I would like to thank the Committee for their invitation to appear today alongside my fellow Ministers.
This Committee has taken on a very wide mandate across tax, anti-money laundering and other areas.
I note that the Committee’s draft recommendations published last week cover a very wide range of issues.
Today, I would firstly like to outline Ireland’s response to the Panama Papers themselves.
Secondly, I would like to discuss Ireland’s commitment to exchange of tax information and to international co-operation in tax issues.
And finally I will comment on Ireland’s actions in the area of anti-money laundering.
IRELAND’S RESPONSE TO THE PANAMA PAPERS
The information contained in the Panama Papers had very limited connection to Ireland.
Nonetheless, whenever any such information becomes available, the Irish Revenue Commissioners examine this information, to decide whether Irish tax has been avoided and whether to challenge the tax planning arrangements.
Ireland is committed to making the fullest possible use of any available information to pursue cases where it appears that tax liabilities have not been addressed and a number of enquiries have been initiated arising from the examination and analysis of the “Panama Papers” data.
This work is ongoing.
Following the publication of the papers, Ireland introduced new legislation last year to prevent taxpayers who use offshore schemes from availing of reduced penalties under Ireland’s voluntary disclosure regime.
To encourage taxpayers who may have used offshore arrangements in the past to come forward, taxpayers were given until 4 May 2017 to make disclosures under the voluntary disclosure regime.
Those that failed to come forward by that date face greater penalties, publication of their names and possible prosecution.
I am advised that the number of disclosures made before 4 May exceeds 2,500, with a value of more than €70 million.
Irish Revenue are now examining all of the disclosures received in further detail.
The Irish Revenue are also fully engaged with the OECD Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Cooperation and will continue to play a full part in agreeing concrete actions that tax administrations can take in response to evidence of tax evasion or avoidance.
IMPORTANCE OF THE EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
I would like to take this opportunity to state that Ireland is a strong supporter of the work done in recent years to increase the exchange of information between tax authorities.
Remarkable progress has been made in recent years at OECD and EU level to extend the automatic exchange of information to include financial account information, country by country reports and tax opinions and rulings.
This new information will play a vital role in improving the ability of tax authorities to carry out risk assessment and to target audits and interventions.
It will also help to reassure citizens that everyone is paying their fair share.
To have a functioning tax system, justice must be done and be seen to be done.
IRELAND’S ENGAGEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL TAX REFORM
More broadly than just information exchange, Ireland has been a strong supporter of international tax reform efforts.
The issue of aggressive tax planning by multinational companies is a global problem that requires a global solution.
The agreement of the OECD BEPS report was a very important step and the focus must now be on implementation.
Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce ‘Country by Country’ reporting to tax authorities.
The agreement of the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive by all EU Member States was another significant step towards the implementation of the BEPS reports.
The BEPS multilateral instrument was another global milestone, which will provide the mechanism for extensive changes to tax treaties globally.
Ireland was one of the countries to sign this Instrument at the first signing ceremony in Paris.
I am supportive of the Commission proposal for all countries to introduce Mandatory Disclosure rules and hope that agreement can be reached on this Directive.
We remain convinced that consistent global action is the best way to achieve a fair and transparent global tax system.
IRELAND AND ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING
With regard to anti-money laundering, a whole of Government approach is adopted.
Ireland has an Anti-Money Laundering Steering Committee, which is chaired by a senior official in my Department and is comprised of representatives from the relevant agencies including the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Garda Siochana, our national police force, the Revenue Commissioners and the State Competent Authorities.
This Steering Committee is responsible for policy making and implementation on anti-money laundering matters.
Ireland is in the process of transposing the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive and is committed to strengthening transparency over who ultimately owns and controls companies and trusts to effectively detect, disrupt and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.
Ireland will establish the central registers of beneficial ownership information for both companies and trusts as provided for under the Directive.
I am aware that the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which is currently being discussed at trilogues, has proposed amendments to these beneficial ownership provisions.
My officials are engaging constructively on these matters.
In closing, I would like to thank the Committee for the invitation to meet you today and I look forward to an engaging discussion.