Does anyone use a work vehicle for work alone?
The cat was put well and truly amongst the pigeons this week, when a story came to light that there was set to be a clampdown on drivers of vehicles taxed as commercial vehicles who are using them for private use. It has been muted that this was at the request of Minister John Gormley, who, it had been reported in one newspaper, had “ordered local authorities to force drivers of commercial 4X4s and small vans to legally declare that they will not use them for any social, domestic or pleasure purposes.”
The Green Party have since came out and said that this wasn’t and isn’t a witch hunt against those drivers of commercial vehicles who might use them socially, but it was in fact a circular which merely reminds users of a law that exists already; one that has been in place for over 20 years.
The Irish Times has reported today (Wednesday August 25) that the Department of the Environment circular ordering a clampdown on the use of commercial vehicles for private purposes was not sent at the behest of the Minister, John Gormley. In fact, Mr Gormley had not been aware the circular was being issued earlier this month. “It had not even been seen by the Minister’s office in advance of it being issued to motor taxation offices,” said his spokesperson.
However, clearly this circular, be it a reminder, an order or a mission statement is obviously intended to alert local authorities of a system that they feel is being abused due to the rising number of vehicles being registered as commercial vehicles.
The reaction to the news has been fierce. RTE’s Liveline show became the sounding post for many small business operators, who were furious that they were being targeted for perhaps dropping the kids to school or buying a litre of milk as part of their daily working day.
Minster for Energy Eamon Ryan came on to Today FM’s The Last Word, seemingly quite bemused by all the fuss and the focus on the Green Party, which he felt was being unfairly branded as a party that is seeking to introduce ’stealth tax’. He didn’t, however say that the law was one that needs to be reviewed.
In a time of Celtic Tiger excess, where the building trade were registering BMW X5s and VW Touaregs as commercial vehicles with sometimes dubious intent, a clampdown such as this would appear to make sense, but now, at a time where the light commercial vehicle sector is on its knees and small businesses are trying to stay afloat, any perceived attack on small businesses is likely to be met with huge resistance.
But, this of course isn’t a new rule, but where are the lines drawn? If you drive a van during the day, should you not meet the lads for a game of five-a-side in the evening in that van? Should you not collect your son or daughter from creche?
If this rule was policed properly, would we see Gardai in the church car park on a Sunday morning or outside a school on a Monday morning? And would these commercial drivers have to buy a second car at a time when money is tight? With us having a government with a Green Party influence, how would they feel about lots of cheap, dirty cars being added to the country’s roads because it is illegal for the local plumber, carpenter or brick layer to use it for the weekly shopping?
Those who buy commercial vehicles are usually VAT registered for a legitimate business. And these are businesses which are going under at an alarming rate. Should they be punished even further?
Give us your view. Do you think that someone who can show that their vehicle is for their business should sign a declaration that they won’t EVER use it for private use or is this simply ridiculous?