Irish tax amnesty under fire

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DUBLIN - An amnesty to allow holders of illegal overseas accounts to return funds home has come under fierce attack as 'a reward for social criminals', writes Alan Murdoch.

The government hopes to recover Ir pounds 300m (pounds 298m) from the estimated Ir pounds 2bn thought to be in accounts set up in breach of exchange control regulations in 1991 by allowing those who repatriate funds for domestic investment to pay only 15 per cent tax.

This extra income will allow the government to drop a controversial special 1 per cent income tax levy imposed in the budget in February, which lifted the aggregate top rate - including social insurance levies - to 57 per cent on income over Ir pounds 10,900.

The one-off deal follows the spectacular success of a 1988 amnesty on overdue domestic tax and interest debts. Expected to bring in Ir pounds 100m, it yielded more than Ir pounds 500m.

Eddie Browne, general president of Siptu, Ireland's largest union, called the move 'a tax break for tax dodgers, a reward for social criminals'. Ivan Yates, finance spokesman of Fine Gael, the main opposition party, said: 'It shows contempt for those who respect the system.'