Convicted criminal appeals over ‘vast’ tax bill 

Tax bill of €214,000 rose to €1 million due to interest and penalties 
 
A man whose original tax bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) ballooned because of interest and penalties on the unpaid sum over more than 11 years should not have to pay such a “vast” amount of money, the Court of Appeal has been told. 
The man, a well-known convicted criminal who cannot be named, was hit with a tax bill of €215,000 for the years 1993/94 and 1999/2000. He made payments totalling €40,000, reducing the bill to €178,000. In February 2002, he brought an appeal against the assessment which was rejected. The net effect was that the monies were finally due but he claims there was an unexplained delay of 11 years before the authorities moved to enforce the demand by summons. By that stage, the bill was almost €1 million because of interest and penalties. 
 
The man claimed he was led to believe by gardaí that the tax bill would not be pursued. 
 
He brought a High Court case, arguing that the 11-year delay between when the final demand was made and the summons for non-payment was issued was unfair. 
 
After the High Court rejected his case, he appealed to the Court of Appeal. 
 
Having heard arguments on Monday from his counsel and Cab, the three- judge court reserved its decision. 
 
Michael O’Higgins SC, for the man, said there was no dispute on the facts of this case but there was an overarching supervisory function of the courts to ensure such matters are prosecuted with speed by the authorities. 
 
His client’s case was that there was a failure by the High Court to attribute sufficient weight to the delay, counsel submitted. His client was entitled to an explanation for the delay by Cab in seeking to recover “vast sums of money over the years”. It was open to the appeal court to consider whether the tax bill should have been reduced on the basis that the reasons for the delay have not been explained, counsel said. 
 
A person was entitled to “get on with their lives and not have a sword of Damocles hanging over them”, he said. 
 
Ben Ó Floinn SC, for Cab, said there was no dispute this taxpayer was in breach of his obligations. Under the relevant tax legislation, there is no provision for “stopping the clock” in relation to a demand, he said. The power to stop the clock always rests with the taxpayer, he argued. 
 
Mr Justice John Edwards, on behalf of the Court of Appeal, said they hoped to give a decision within the next couple of weeks. 
 
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