Revenue can recover tax arrears from former councillor

Court of Appeal dismisses solictor’s appeal against judgment of almost €190,000

Under Tax Clearance Regulations of 1999, a solicitor cannot have their name added to the criminal legal aid panel, and cannot receive payments under the criminal legal aid scheme, unless they have a tax clearance certificate.

Under Tax Clearance Regulations of 1999, a solicitor cannot have their name added to the criminal legal aid panel, and cannot receive payments under the criminal legal aid scheme, unless they have a tax clearance certificate.

 

The Revenue is entitled to recover almost €190,000 tax arrears from Co Louth solicitor and former councillor, Finian Brannigan, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The three judge court dismissed Drogheda-based Mr Brannigan’s appeal against a High Court decision the Revenue was entitled to summary judgment for €188,412 against him over arrears of taxes, including income tax, PRSI and VAT payments.

The former Labour Party councillor had argued Revenue official Michael Cunningham had in 2010 agreed to give Mr Brannigan a limited tax clearance certificate on terms including that any payments made to him by the Department of Justice for work done under the Criminal Legal Aid scheme would go directly to the Collector General.

Income from legally aided criminal defence work would have constituted a “significant portion” of Mr Brannigan’s income had he held the correct tax certification, the court noted.

Mr Cunningham and another Revenue official both said such an agreement was never, and could never, be reached as Mr Brannigan had not held a tax clearance certificate since June 2004.

Under Tax Clearance Regulations of 1999, a solicitor cannot have their name added to the criminal legal aid panel, and cannot receive payments under the criminal legal aid scheme, unless they have a tax clearance certificate.

Giving the appeal court’s judgment, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said the fact Mr Brannigan had not held a tax clearance certificate since 2004 has lead to the unfortunate situation he was not entitled to be paid for work he had done. His projected income stream from his criminal legal aid work had turned out to be illusory because, under the 1999 regulations, he was simply not entitled to be paid for that work.

Mr Branningan had not advanced even an arguable case to defeat the Revenue’s entitlement to judgment for the sums due, he ruled.

The solicitor’s defence was more in the nature of a cross-claim and amounted to saying the Revenue agreed to hold off enforcement of the Revenue debt pending the collection of monies due to Mr Brannigan under the legal aid scheme.

Even if there was such an agreement, that did not help Mr Brannigan because there were in fact no fees due to him because of the “regrettable” fact he had had no tax clearance certificate for over a decade, the judge said.

The Revenue had sought to attach his legal aid earnings but learned there are no such earnings, he said. Any complaint Mr Brannigan had about that was with the Department of Justice.

While a phased payment arrangement may in some instances be reached between Revenue and taxpayers who find themselves in arrears, the solicitor had also taken no “meaningful steps” to pursue such an arrangement, the judge added.