Tuesday 21 October 2014

Former charity worker avoids prison sentence after failure to file tax returns on €1.2m earnings

Sonya McLean and Conor Gallagher

Published 18/07/2014 | 13:35

An open verdict was returned at the inquest into the death of a Belgian student who "most probably" had taken cyanide

A former charity worker has avoided prison after he failed to make tax returns on €1.2m he earned while bringing athletes to Ireland to raise money for a US Arthritis Foundation.

The court heard Robert O’Sullivan (63) has reached a settlement with the Revenue to repay €871,000 including interest and penalties and that he has paid over most of this.

Judge Desmond Hogan noted the extensive character references handed in on the man’s behalf including one from former presidential candidate and head of Special Olympics Europe, Mary Davis.

The judge said that the references spoke very highly of O’Sullivan. He said that the accused had faced up to matters “in an honourable way” and does not deserve to go to prison.

Judge Hogan imposed a two year term which he suspended in full on condition O’Sullivan keeps the peace for 12 months.

O’Sullivan of Grange Wood, Rathfarnham, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making incorrect tax returns on dates in 2005. He has no previous convictions.

Aidan Murphy, a higher executive officer in the Revenue Commissioners told John Byrne BL, prosecuting, that O’Sullivan’s tax affairs first came under scrutiny in July 2008.

At the time O’Sullivan held two credit union accounts and he was told his tax affairs relating to his 2005 income were under examination.

In September 2008 O’Sullivan went to the Revenue Commissioners claiming he had “nothing to hide.” He said he would co-operate fully with the investigation and provided them with a completed statement of affairs for himself and his wife.

He said he had been a taxi driver since 2002 having retired from Eircom. He received €118,000 on his retirement which he lodged into his credit union account and he later bought a property in Spain.

O’Sullivan said that he began to work for the Arthritis Foundation of American in 1998 and he opened an account in the name of Robert O’Sullivan Arthritis Foundation.

He said his role was to arrange accommodation and other facilities for athletes coming from America to participate in the Dublin City Marathon on behalf of the foundation. The foundation lodged cash in his account to cover those expenses. He said there would sometimes be up to 1,800 participants.

He said he worked in a voluntary capacity and the arrangement ended in 2006 when the group stopped sending athletes to Ireland. O’Sullivan told officers he considered any surplus in his account to be his profit.

The officer said that €1,270,267 was later withdrawn from this Arthritis Foundation account and lodged to O’Sullivan’s personal account, while between November 2005 and January 2006, €905,762 was then transferred from this account into a Spanish account.

He told counsel that a statement from O’Sullivan’s Arthritis Foundation account showed that in August 2002 there were withdrawals of just over €1.27 million and the closing balance was €259,820.

Mr Murphy said Revenue considered the €905,796 transferred to the Spanish account to be a profit for the purpose of any tax calculation.

He said it was concluded that O’Sullivan’s total taxable income for the purposes of making returns was €1.2 million.

Mr Murphy said O’Sullivan met voluntarily with Revenue again in September 2010 when a number of documents were put to him. He identified his signature on his 2005 tax return.

It was noted that he failed to declare any income in respect of the Arthritis Foundation. He had claimed his only tax liability had been €12,546 from his work as a taxi driver.

Mr Murphy agreed with Patrick Reynolds BL, defending, that Revenue considered O’Sullivan’s work with the Arthritis Foundation was with a view to making a profit.

He accepted that O’Sullivan claimed that it was never a case of profit making and if there ever was a surplus, it didn’t come into effect until he stopped working with the foundation in October 2005.

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