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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 25, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    Does anyone use a work vehicle for work alone?

    Michael McAleer

    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?

    • ALAN says:

      I think this is just been done to prevent those who chance there arm to and register there vehicle as commercial but use it for private use. It’s the law and it’s just been re-emphasised. Just like those who import top speck cars and try and re-register them as basic

    • Liam says:

      why not just a simple % rule. it works for when businesses are based in domestic homes for things like utilities etc. But have to say when I see langers going around in commercial SUV’s I’m not exactly feeling much sympathy for them

    • bren says:

      if there is any way to avoid a daft law then i think it is the educated citizens duty to do so.when are politicians going to realise that you cannot legislate for every eventuality .its the public purse where we should be looking for persons taking private advantage of public funding .how many politicians public servants use phones email government cars for private affairs only when these areas are investigated and cleaned up 100% should we hassle the working people and as we know that will never happen the case is closed

    • Sean says:

      Every one of these ‘commercial’ vehicle owners has signed a declaration stating that the vehicle will not be used for ‘social domestic or pleasure purposes’. Now they are incensed at the slightest hint that there might be some consequence arising from the fact that they have lied on a legal declaration. These vehicles should have been taxed privately all along. Pathetic. And so typically Irish.

    • Sean says:

      AND they’ve had the ‘goods only declaration’ form stamped at a Garda Station. Unbelievable.


    • hughsheehy says:

      The comparison between the commercial vehicle user and the private vehicle user is simple.

      If I have a car as a private user that I only use for the few minutes a day to drop kids off to school or to get some groceries that are too heavy to carry home on a bike – a car that I perhaps use for very few miles as a private user – then I still have to pay the same full annual tax as a private car user who uses the car for everything.

      Similarly, if someone is using a commercially taxed vehicle for private uses only a few minutes a day, then there is no reason that this person should be exempt from paying the full annual tax for the right to drive that vehicle on the public road. They shouldn’t be exempt, they should have to pay the same full rate that everyone else pays for private car use.

      Perhaps the solution is to reduce road tax for everyone….but wait, Ireland is built on special treatment for this segment, then that segment, then the next segment, so same treatment for everyone on a logical and just basis is anathema to Ireland.

      This lack of republican equality is what encourages the kind of politics and the kind of politicians that we have today.

    • Fiona says:

      My OH has a commercial vehicle and is self employed and yes he picks up our kids in the evening from the childminders because I am at work also. It would be stupid to have to purchase another car just for this small purpose.
      We recently changed the commercial vehicle to a jeep that has back seats and registered it as a private vehicle and paid the full tax but were then told by the insurance company that a privately taxed vehicle cannot be insured for commercial and private purposes and we would have to buy 2 different insurance policies.
      The whole thing needs to be reviewed

    • Joe says:

      The requirement for a declaration is new in that most Local Authorities havent been asking for it up to now. Its easy to see why motorists on a budget would use one of these vehicles & whenm one sees the skull duggery that goes on with Ministers/TD’s & Councillors travelling expenses (not to mention of Senators!), then I do not see it as much of a crime for the owner of such vehicles to use them for domestic use. There are inherent disadvantages in using these vehicles as it is (lack of rear seats & poor rear quarter visibility), so no-one would use one by choice. HOWEVER, I believe that in the post war years farmers & others “cut down” cars into pick-up to use on farms (& avail of commercial tax at that time). So its nothting new to seek out innovative “tax avoidance” measures!

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