Photographer accused of not paying VAT on €1.4m earnings
A PHOTOGRAPHER has been accused of failing to pay a single cent in VAT during a period when he earned €1.4m by taking pictures of tourists.
Niall Williamson, of The Old Schoolhouse in Dunkit, Co Kilkenny, denies 115 charges relating to alleged VAT offences between 1998 and 2004.
The accused operated as a freelance photographer at the Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, taking pictures and selling them to tourists, Kilkenny Circuit Court heard during its sitting in Carlow yesterday.
Mr Williamson said he believed he wasn't liable for VAT because the pictures taken at the visitor centre were sold to foreign tourists and therefore he understood that they were "exports".
The court was told yesterday by Revenue inspector Patrick Faughnan that VAT returns which showed VAT on sales as "nil" should have been €157,909, with total sales coming to about €1.4m during that period.
The inspector told the court that his understanding of the arrangement was that visitors at the centre "wanted their picture taken standing at Waterford Crystal with a piece of glass and that they paid Niall Williamson for that service".
Mr Williamson paid the crystal company a commission for being allowed to have a "place of business" on its premises.
Among the charges against the accused are counts of producing false invoices for equipment purchased in 1998 and 1999.
Mr Faughnan told the court that during one of the interviews with Mr Williamson, the accused said "it was wrong" to submit the incorrect invoices.
"I knew it at the time," Niall Williamson is alleged to have said. "I'm shaking telling you. I was under severe pressure from the bank."
Mr Faughnan told the court that a "blue book" he found during a search of the accused's house contained "haphazard" details of sales.
"He kept some records but he didn't keep proper records for the purposes of his tax returns."
The accused never provided figures for sales made at Waterford Crystal, said Mr Faughnan, and he had to obtain them from Waterford Crystal itself.
A total of 29 counts against Niall Williamson relate to the alleged submission of incorrect VAT returns; six counts relate to the production of incorrect invoices; 29 relate to the claiming of VAT to which he wasn't entitled; 36 relate to the failure to remit VAT; and six relate to failing to keep records of transactions.
The trial continues before Judge Olive Buttimer.