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Flying beneath the radar

Bearing in mind that the Eiffel Tower is simply the Empire State Building after taxes, nobody particularly wants to pay ‘em. But now that the liquor licensing year is at an end, final figures from the Revenue Commissioners indicate that 914 licensed premises failed to renew their licence last year.

 These were premises that didn’t apply for a new licence that could have done so. 303 of these had a licence for the previous year, 2008/2009 and I’d imagine that a significant proportion of these licensed premises simply went out of business and thus failed to apply for the 2009-2010 licence.

Another 114 are accounted for by ‘Tranfers, Revivals or Newly Licensed Premises’ according to the Revenue. That leaves 497 who have not held a licence for some – or many – years.

Over the past few months a number of licensees have approached me with tales of ‘publicans’ of their acquaintance purchasing their goods in cash from supermarkets thus flying under the radars of VAT-man and the Revenue Commissioners. It’s hardly fair competition.

Those not involved in trying to operate a retail business against such competition might feel ‘Good luck to them’ for, to paraphrase Will Rodgers, our taxation system has made more liars out of the Irish people than golf has. But while such fly-by-night operators leave Revenue to pick up the empty pieces having flown the coup, they drag down legitimate publicans while operating in this manner.

So to what extent can we deduce how many bucketfuls from the remaining pool of 800  licences not renewed last year comprise publicans simply operating without a licence (in addition to purchasing their goods below the radar)? After all, even the Revenue Commissioners admit that some of those without a licence may still be trading.

If, as suspected, the Budget is going to put taxes up so high, so fast that we’re all going to get a nosebleed – and human nature being what it is – this situation may only get worse in the absence of more rigorous policing.

And in the end, let’s not forget that while the Budget may stimulate an election, no matter which party gets in, some things will never change. In a democracy like ours we retain complete control over just how we pay our taxes: choose from cash, laster, direct debit, cheque…..

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