Haughey valuation `on light side'

 

The value placed on Mr Charles Haughey's Abbeville residence was quadrupled by the valuation office following the McCracken tribunal in 1997, the Moriarty tribunal heard yesterday.

Two Revenue Commissioner officials, Mr Fergus Carroll and Mr Christopher Clayton, said Mr Haughey had assessed the value of the Abbeville residence at £250,000 in 1983 for the purpose of estimating residential property tax (RPT).

Mr Haughey gradually increased this figure until it reached £295,000 by 1996. On two occasions, Mr Haughey's values were submitted to the valuations office and were accepted.

Pointing to these self-assessments, Mr John Couglan SC, for the tribunal, suggested that they were lower than expected for such a residence. "Would you agree that they appear to be somewhat on the light side?" Mr Coughlan asked Mr Carroll, assistant principal officer. "I would, I would," Mr Carroll said.

Following the McCracken tribunal, the valuation officer placed much higher valuations on the residence. The 1994 figure was increased from £262,500 to £600,000. The 1995 value was increased from £272,500 to £700,000.

The greatest increase was made for 1996. The value of the Abbeville residence increased from £295,000 to £1.3 million. These changes increased Mr Haughey's residential property tax bill by almost £39,000.

The tribunal also heard that the Revenue Commissioners had written to Mr Haughey's solicitors on several occasions between 1986 and 1990, seeking more complete residential property tax returns as well as details of the ownership of Inishvickillane island.

RPT was never paid on the island, and the Revenue Commissioners had been considering whether the island ought to be included in the RPT returns. It later emerged that the island was owned by Larchfield Securities and financed by Mr Haughey.

A decision not to seek a full statement of affairs from Mr Haughey was defended by Mr Christopher Clayton, chief inspector of taxes. "I'm not quite sure that it would have been very helpful because in fact Mr Haughey was prepared to make incorrect annual returns of income and capital gains. The statement of affairs might have been similarly deficient." He would have expected the statement of affairs to be fully consistent with the income returns, "in other words - wrong".