Irish 'whistle blowing' bill gets rewrite

The Irish Republic has passed a revamped Finance Act after solicitors won their fight against being legally compelled to report tax evasion to the Revenue Commissioners.

They had claimed that to do so would contravene the traditional lawyer/client relationship and undermine the citizen's constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The proposal, covering auditors, accountants and tax advisers, as well as solicitors, had been put forward in a new Bill by Irish Finance Minister Ruairi Quinn. But the Incorporated Law Society advised members not to implement the measure if it became law, on grounds it was unconstitutional.

Attorney General Dermot Gleeson agreed and Minister Quinn, acting on his advice, has rewritten the measure, exempting solicitors from the requirement to report tax cheating to the Revenue Commissioners. Instead, solicitors will be obliged to inform clients of any tax irregularity they discover while handling their affairs and to ask them to rectify it.

If this is not done within a period of six months, the solicitor is then obliged to cease to act for the client.

Quinn was critical of the Irish Law Society's advice that members should not obey it. But society director general Ken Murphy strongly defended its stance.