Revenue will lose an important tool in its enforcement efforts if it is forced to end the publication of its Tax Defaulters' List, according to an Irish tax expert.
However Cormac Kelleher, tax advisor at Mazars, said the authority has a number of tools available to it, so its work of identifying and punishing those who fall behind on their obligations would be unaffected.
The Sunday Business Post yesterday reported that the future of Revenue's Tax Defaulters' List was in doubt following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
It found in favour of a Hungarian businessman, who took a case against a similar 'name and shame' list that is compiled by Hungarian tax authorities.
He argued it represented a modern day "scarlet letter" that was designed to humiliate rather than discourage fraud.
The ECHR found that the publication of tax defaulters was capable of making people feel "shame" and "humiliation". It ruled that such publication was in breach of the right to privacy.
Ireland's Revenue Commissioners must now examine the ruling to see what impact it has on its own operations.
Revenue has been publishing its own Tax Defaulters' List for 40 years and it is seen as an effective way of getting people to cooperate with the authority.
"When you're trying to explain to [clients] what is a Revenue audit, how it's going to work, obviously tax penalties, they don't like talking about it," said Cormac Kelleher. "But when you say 'by the way, if we don't cooperate your name will be on this list', suddenly they think 'oh, will the neighbours see this? Will my competitors see this?'
"And that can change the conversation."
However he said Revenue had a number of tools at its disposal, and so the weight of an audit - and an adverse finding - will still be significant, even if it is kept private.
"If you do look at the list as they currently stand, you've tax, plus interest, plus penalties," he said. "The interest and the penalties are often equal to the amount owed in tax.
"The penalty can really be influenced by the level of cooperation, the level of engagement that you have with Revenue. So it's still a very powerful tool that they have in terms of the level of the penalties."
Revenue will still continue to audit and investigate to the same extent as before, Mr Kelleher added.
Getting featured on the defaulters' list, as it currently stands, is not something that happens easily, either.
Mr Kelleher said it tends to come after a prolonged period of time, and often non-cooperation, and only involves cases where the amount owed is significant.
We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
"You're name doesn't suddenly appear on the list if you fail to file a tax return, or if you innocently make a mstake in filling a tax return," he said. "It's a much, much longer process to get onto that list.
"Usually you're looking at where there's tax penalties and so forth of more than €50,000 - so it tends to be the larger cases".
He also predicted that any alteration to Revenue's approach will take time - as it would require legislative change, which was unlikely to happen before Budget 2024 is announced.