€20k car bill proof ‘hard border’ is already here!

A Derry man hit with €20,000 in unforeseen expenses because the Irish Revenue Commissioners believed he lived in Letterkenny, has said  the saga proves a ‘hard border’ exists.

Saturday, 23rd March 2019, 9:49 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd March 2019, 10:51 am
Andrew Cassidy.

Andrew Cassidy, from Stoneypath, was pulled over by tax officers on his way to work in the town on October 10, 2018.

His car was seized under Section 141 of the Finance Act, 2001, on the basis that Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) had not been paid, despite his protestations that he lived in Derry and was not liable.

“Essentially, I was put out of the car at the roadside and they took it off me because they believed I was a resident in the Republic, which I wasn’t and I’m still not.

Andrew Cassidy.

“They said at the roadside that if I paid €2,000 I could be on my way. I would then have seven days to VRT it, which would have cost €3,500. Not carrying €5,500 about with me, I rang a few people to see what my options were and was informed I had to hand it over. I had to ring for a lift home.

“They didn’t provide any evidence at all at the roadside. I had to contact the prosecutions team at the ‘Revenue’ in Bridgend and was told I had to pay the money or I’d be taken to court,” he said.

Mr. Cassidy works in Letterkenny, which is also where his girlfriend resides. Add to this his role as a Derry City Football Club director and, like most, he’s back and forth across the border on a regular basis.

It was a handful of visits to his girlfriend’s home, however, that was used by the Revenue Commissioners as justification for their swoop.

“They claimed that they had seen my car outside a house in Letterkenny on a number of dates. My girlfriend lives in Letterkenny and I stayed at her house on a couple of dates last year.

"Through a Freedom of Information request I learned from the ‘Revenue’ that they had a list of 15 dates sporadic dates - it’s not as if I was there for two weeks or anything - when the car was in the State.

“They were saying that their stance on it was, if you are seen in Donegal on the 1st of the month and again on the 31st of the month that is counted as 30 days. It’s not counted as two days,” he declared.

The Revenue Commissioners told Mr. Cassidy that they had spotted his N.I. XNZ 6396 Renault Mégane on April 30, May 1, May 23, June 19, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 20, July 21, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26 and October 10 last year.

But this was absurd as a justification for claiming that he was a resident in the South, he argued.

“How am I supposed to stay with my girlfriend? What if someone was down shopping in Aldi and was seen again 30 days later. Does that mean they were shopping for 30 days?” he asked.

There followed five months of red-tape and argument between the Revenue Commissioners and Mr. Cassidy who provided ample proof that he lived in Derry.

To no avail, however. He was ultimately forced to cough up a €1,000 ‘compromise’ penalty charge - reduced from the €2,000 initially demanded at the side of the New Line Road last October, as well as €3,342 in VRT registration fees, before his car was released on March 4.

The overall expense incurred as a result of the experience was much higher.

“Because the car wasn’t my car, it was a personal contract purchase (PCP) car, I had to buy the car outright in order to export it out of the UK. This cost £15,000, an expense I wouldn’t have had to incur otherwise.

“I would estimate that I’m out over €20,000 in total, with the £15,000 to buy the car, the €1,000 penalty charge, the €3,342 VRT charge, €660 for southern insurance because the insurance I had in the North wouldn’t cover me and €200 road tax in the South,” said Mr. Cassidy.

The Waterside man said it had been a case of pay up or else lose his means of transport for a period of up to two years if he had sought redress through the courts.

“I had six months without a car. They talk about a hard border. A hard border exists. It’s sitting there.

“The ‘customs’ are sitting every day in Donegal. They are always sitting at the border. They are taking cars all the time. It’s only a matter of time before they start searching delivery vans and doing all sorts for customs stuff. It’s crazy what they are doing,” he said.

Mr. Cassidy is currently going through an appeal process but that will take time.

“The best case scenario is that I get my money back again as I never should have paid,” he maintained.

A spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners said it could not comment.

“The provisions of Section 851A TCA formalise taxpayer confidentiality and include a specific tax-related provision to reassure taxpayers that their personal and commercial information disclosed to Revenue for tax purposes is protected against unauthorised disclosure to third parties,” a spokesperson said.

Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, who has been assisting Mr. Cassidy since last October, said: “We’re aware of the case and that the past five months has been a very stressful time for Andrew and that it’s come at a large personal financial cost. We’ll continue to support him in any way we can.”