Since receiving an offer from an informant with evidence on a hundred Icelanders guilty of illegally evading taxes a few months ago, the Directorate of Tax Investigations in Iceland has been struggling to obtain political and financial backing from the government.
RÚV reports that Finance Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, has refused to financially assist the Head of the Directorate of Tax Investigations, Bryndís Kristjánsdóttir, in purchasing the information, saying the responsibility of obtaining the information rests solely in the her hands.
“This certainly won’t be dumped on the Ministry of Finance,” said Bjarni. “We received notice from the Head of the Directorate of Tax Investigations that this information was being offered and said that we would support them in getting it. But [Bryndís] must rise to her responsibilities by performing tax investigations and must collect the data and information needed to do so. Because the Ministry of Finance will not be taking on that responsibility. It’s completely unthinkable that we are going to pay for data like this with a suitcase full of money to some anonymous person.”
The leader of the Social Democratic Alliance, Árni Páll Árnason, has criticised the Finance Minister‘s stance on the issue and asked whether or not he is deliberately stalling the process of obtaining the tax data.
“I was very surprised because the trouble [with obtaining this tax evasion information] lies first and foremost with [Bjarni],” said Árni Páll. “He’s been saying that it might be necessary to change certain laws in order to use the information on offer. But no bill or amendment has been submitted to parliament in regards to this case. We would pass it in a day if he brought it to the table. And now the Head of the Directorate of Tax Investigations has said that the support pledged isn’t sufficient, so it’s on the Finance Minister to secure enough funding.”
According to a press release from the political party, Dawn (Dögun), the informant has asked for guaranteed anonymity and protection when providing the information, as well as financial compensation.
“[The Finance Minister] wants to know who is being paid for the information,” reads the statement from Dawn. “But that is obviously out of the question because it would put the source in considerable danger.”
“We just need to look over what’s needed to buy this information,” said Árni Páll. “Germans, who make greater demands of the handling of public funds and the letter of the law than any other nation in Europe, has managed to purchase this kind of information and make it work. I just think that the Finance Minister needs to stop stalling this issue by pushing it away and trying to make it dead in the water and just get to solving it.”
Since the Directorate of Tax Investigations was established in 1993, steps have been taken in the fight against tax crimes. According to the Directorate’s website the increased amount collected by the state’s tax collectors, over the last few years have amounted to more than 4 billion ISK approximately 30 million USD, and a large number of rulings and administrative decisions have been made on tax fines.
The Directorate of Tax Investigations works in close co-operation with the Economic Crime Division of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, which is a specialised body for serious economic crimes and tax frauds.