Road toll cuts: Hauliers, motorists seek €100m Vat repayments

European Court of Justice ruled State-owned tolls in Ireland should not charge Vat

Toll charges are to be reduced at Dublin’s East Link bridge from next week - but not on the M50 barrier-free toll or the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Dublin City Council said yesterday that following an EU court ruling, Vat should not be charged on the Tom Clarke toll bridge, otherwise known as the East Link Toll Bridge, from Friday, August 18th.

This will mean a 20 per cent, or 35 cent, reduction for cars.

The reduction arises from a European Court of Justice ruling that State-owned tolls in Ireland should not charge Vat, essentially because the State faces no competition on its routes. The ruling does not affect the toll roads outside of Dublin, which are privately owned.


While the ruling means the price of crossing the East Link will drop, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the State body which owns the M50 and Dublin Tunnel, has said it is not going to drop the price for private motorists.

M50 toll up

For commercial users, such as hauliers, the price of using the M50 has actually risen. This is because they can no longer claim back Vat back from the Revenue, as was the case up to the implementation of the European Court ruling, in April. Heavy goods vehicles do not have to pay to use the Dublin Tunnel.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland argues that the M50 and Dublin Tunnel should be allowed to implement different Vat measures for private motorists to the East Link Bridge.

It said this is because when Vat on tolls was introduced (by Revenue instruction in July 2010), it dropped the price of the M50 and Tunnel tolls. This was so that the addition of Vat would not affect the overall price paid by motorists.

TII then took legal action against Revenue at the European Court of Justice. Following the ruling that Vat should not be charged, TII said it is entitled to now absorb the benefit, having absorbed the pain in the past.

TII is also due a refund of the Vat it forwarded to the Revenue over some six years, estimated at about €100 million.

Challenged by hauliers

However, this view has been challenged by hauliers and some private motorists, who point out that for more then six years it issued bills detailing a toll price, an additional Vat amount and a Vat number. Motorists who paid Vat are now entitled to claim a historical payment back, if the Vat should not have been charged, they say. They want the €100 million refunded to those who paid it.

The new situation is more difficult for hauliers registered for Vat, who were allowed to claim back the Vat element of their toll invoices over the six years. However, with the ending of Vat charges they have nothing left to claim back.

Following TII’s decision not to drop the overall charges, Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said her members have been “saddled with a 23 per cent increase” costs. TII said its position was clearly outlined on the M50 toll website.

The East Link was privately owned until 2015, so Vat payments were properly applied there until the bridge was assigned to public ownership. The Vat issue is therefor not as significant as on the M50.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times