Dermot Quigley, Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, told the Finance Dublin Conference today that harmonisation of tax rates is not on the agenda in the EU or on a wider international level.

'While corporation tax rates are coming down in all the major countries, differences in economic and social frameworks, and in budgetary situations, make talk of harmonisation a pipe dream', he said. 'There is in fact now a welcome acknowledgment creeping into the debate that some element of tax competition is a good thing,' Mr Quigley added.

He said that focus is increasingly being put on practical measures to promote real integration within the Single Market, while national tax measures that may facilitate tax abuse will increasingly come under scrutiny.

The Revenue Chairman warned against abuse of what he called 'our very favourable corporation tax regime' that might focus further international attention of us.

Mr Quigley told the Finance Dublin Conference that the DIRT audits have not ended. He said specific audits of compliance with the DIRT legislation will be an annual feature of Revenue's audit programme. All deposit takers will be audited every few years but some institutions will be subject to more frequent audits based on risk-taking.

He added that banks, including IFSE banks which claim to have no DIRT liability because of the nature of their business, are also subject to audit and added that such audits are currently ongoing.

On the subject of e-commerce, Mr Quigley said that the Revenue Commissioners are active participants in using internet technology to develop their business. He said that the Revenue Online Service (ROS) has become the flagship project in the wider e-Government programme and is recognised as the key venture that started the delivery of e-Government services.

Ireland is now only marginally behind Canada and Spain as the top three worldwide administrations delivering online, interactive services, according to the Revenue Chairman.

The first phase of ROS, introduced last September, exceeded all expectations, Mr Quigley said. In the first eight weeks of going live, a total of £50 million was gathered. To date, £330 million has been paid electronically from 6,000 returns.

ROS' second phase, to be introduced next week, will enable business to electronically file the annual Employer return while access to VAT and PAYE Revenue account details will be available online 24 hours a day. Phase three of ROS will be launched next October.