Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Tax Prosecution of Haulage Operator has Implications for Other Freight Firms

Trade Association Backs Firm to Beat the Authorities
Shipping News Feature

IRELAND – Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) is backing an appeal in the Supreme Court against prosecutions for motor tax offences relating to vehicle weight by road haulage operator Perennial Freight. The FTAI's national council voted to financially back the court action because of its implications for the freight industry in Ireland as a whole. The company, which has over 50 trucks and more than 350 trailers on its fleet, was originally charged with technical offences relating to the unladen weight of the vehicle at the time it was taxed. Chris Smyth, Commercial Director of Perennial Freight, said:

"The laws for commercial vehicle motor tax were written in a different era. The mixed nature of our business means that, on some occasions, a tractor will have to pick up a trailer heavier than the one it was originally taxed with. If this happens, we could be prosecuted for an offence. We think this is unfair and unreasonable. We don't believe that the Oireachtas intended the law to be this way when they wrote it. That's why we have asked the Supreme Court to consider the fairness of these prosecutions against us."

The Irish-owned international transport firm is one of the largest logistics companies in Ireland being a substantial employer in the Wexford area which also has offices in the UK, France, Holland and Poland. Jon Goodaker, Operations Manager of Virginia International Logistics, and Chairman of the FTA Ireland National Council said:

"Ireland has the highest rates of commercial vehicle road tax in Europe. The only way operators like Perennial Freight could be compliant with the law as it stands is for them to tax every single truck they have at €5,195 per year. This would make them even less competitive against UK and continental operators, and threaten employment in the company. The laws as they stand should be struck down."

Neil McDonnell, General Manager of FTA Ireland, said that this is a long-running issue is for the Irish freight industry and that the Commission on Taxation, set up by the Oireachtas, identified the shortcomings in the commercial motor tax system and suggested remedies as long ago as 1984, adding:

"We have pressed the Dáil and the Transport Minister on motor tax, to no avail. It is apparent that many international transporters are now registering their operations abroad to avoid the oppressive rates of taxation in this jurisdiction. This also means a loss of driver employment in Ireland.

"There is no point in Dáil Eireann setting up high-powered commissions, and then ignoring their recommendations. Successive governments have done nothing to rectify the situation, leading to the ridiculous position today where thousands of prosecutions have been made against otherwise law-abiding employers. We believe it's time the Supreme Court delivered a message to the legislators to get their house in order, 31 years of inaction on this issue is enough."