Monday 26 September 2016

Console's tax status expired during audit

The HSE funded Console, even though its tax status expired a year ago

Published 10/07/2016 | 02:30

Console's interim CEO David Hall Photo: Colm Mahady
Console's interim CEO David Hall Photo: Colm Mahady

The taxpayer, through the HSE, continued to fund the bereavement counselling service run by disgraced charity Console, even though its charity tax status expired more than a year ago.

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The Sunday Independent has learned that Console's authorisation under the charitable donation scheme expired on June 16, 2015 - at a time when a full-blown internal HSE audit was investigating the organisation's finances.

Last Tuesday, the Revenue Commissioners wrote to Console, notifying the organisation that Console Suicide Bereavement Counselling Limited has been removed from the Revenue's list of bodies approved to claim tax relief on charitable donations.

As an approved body under Section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, Console gained significant tax reliefs on donations.

The board of Console, led by interim chief executive David Hall, meets tomorrow when questions will be asked about how one agency of the State (the HSE) funded the charity at the same time the tax authorities knew it did not have valid tax-relief status.

"I have a full report in relation to the operations of Console, including matters relating to Revenue and correspondence from Revenue," said Mr Hall, who is also investigating whether charity donations given to Console were used to buy a valuable horse.

The horse, which cost some €20,000 and is currently stabled in the Midlands, is owned in the name of a family member of Console founder, Paul Kelly.

Mr Kelly was notified on April 17, 2015 that the HSE was conducting an internal audit of the organisation.

The internal audit commenced in May but was suspended until June 8, 2015.

On-site inspections by the HSE continued until June 18, by which time Console's authorisation to operate the Charitable Donation Scheme had lapsed.

The HSE says its audit covered the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and that Console did not declare the lapse in the charity's tax status to the HSE.

The Revenue continued to correspond throughout last year with Console about its tax exemption status.

However, the Revenue received no response from the charity about whether it wished to renew its status, leading to last week's removal of the organisation from the list of approved bodies.

The HSE, under its Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Console, does not have the authority to demand access to its current accounts.

Last Tuesday, when the Revenue notified Console that its bereavement counselling section had been removed from the charitable donation scheme, Tanaiste and justice minister Frances Fitzgerald signed a commencement order to allow the charity regulator to carry out statutory investigations of charities.

Part Four of the Charities Act 2009 allows the regulator to carry out statutory investigations of charities.

The Charity Regulator has been up and running since 2014, but its investigative powers (which become operative in September) were only commenced last week in the wake of the Console revelations.

Additional reporting by Sarah McCabe and Gavin McLoughlin

Sunday Independent

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