The VRT rip-off continues - claim

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‘Drivers are being manipulated to get as much money out of them and that’s what it boils down to’.

- That’s the message from one anti VRT campaigner who says a newly created ‘grey area’ in the law for importing vans to the south is the last straw for Inishowen drivers.

Campaigner Ryan Stewart told the Journal yesterday drivers are being hit ‘left, right and centre and it’s simply not fair.’

He’s hit out after the Journal contacted Revenue and Customs in relation to claims van drivers are now - on top of punitive road tax hikes - being wrongly charged to import their vans in to the South, from the North.

It was claimed that a decision was made to up the import tax from 50 euro, for vans, to 13.3 per cent of their value - but this was later dismissed by government chiefs.

But when the Journal contacted the department over the allegations, a spokesperson agreed a decision to charge all category B vehicles (which means a category N1 vehicle or a motor caravan) 13.3 per cent of the open market selling price of the vehicle was reversed.

He said: “However following representation from various sectors and recognising the particular difficulties small commercial ventures were experiencing because of the downturn in the economy, the Minister for Finance, decided to amend the legislation so that some commercial vehicles, ie those that might be used as replacement cars would continue to be charged at 13.3 per cent, ie while those that could be considered as genuine ‘workhorses’ used by commercial entities would revert back to the pre 2010 status, ie a flat rate of 50 euro.”

But Mr Stewart says this just creates a grey area in the law and ‘there’s nothing black and white about it’.

He told the Journal: “If somebody wants to import a jeep are they going to be told ‘no it’s not a van’?

“The whole thing is just up in the air and there is no commonsense being shown here.

“Motorists are getting hit again and again between the commercial motor tax, the VRT and now this.

“If you are a painter and decorator and you are using, for example an Astra van that looks like a car that has no back seats in it - are they saying that is not commercial even though it is what that person needs to get about?

“If it is commercial it should be able to be used for other purposes, bottom line.

“What about a farmer using a jeep on his land? Does he have to have a landrover? Are there going to be certain needs or demands on vehicles that are going to be used and then could he be told ‘you can’t have that?’

“There is nothing to give people any guidelines.

“People are going to buy a van and jeep and then being told they will have to pay 13,3 per cent and it’s not fair.

“There’s an awful lot of people in that position now, people who have bought a jeep for commercial use and now being told it is not - even though it blatantly is.”

Angered Mr Stewart said he’s not only received a number of calls about this, but also about the delay in getting newly imported cars tested at the NCT centres.

He said because of the backlog in tests drivers are being given test dates in May.

But, he said as a result of this it will mean they’ll be down 150 euro - because the VRT commercial tax is going up 200 euro from May 1st.

He added: “It’s just not fair on people.”