Revenue in major crackdown on drivers who fail to pay VRT
THOUSANDS of motorists who imported cars from Britain and the North without paying VRT will be targeted in a new Revenue crackdown, the Irish Independent has learned.
The move is aimed at clawing back up to €100m in unpaid taxes.
It has been made possible by the handover of all of the names, addresses and number plates of drivers with unregistered cars by the country's insurance companies.
The only drivers who are set to escape the clampdown are those who have not insured their cars -- but they run the risk of being detected at garda checkpoints.
The Revenue confirmed it was now receiving information from the insurance companies on a monthly basis about vehicles with foreign registration numbers.
It said it was using this "in a targeted way" along with other intelligence to ensure that drivers complied with VRT legislation.
Since the start of the year, it has seized around 1,200 vehicles for non-payment of VRT -- although it could not say how many of these were as a result of the new information.
Under Section 111 of the new Finance Act, every insurance company now has to hand over the details of drivers who have an unregistered car for more than 42 days.
As well as the driver's name, address and number plate, the insurance company also has to hand over the date when the insurance policy was taken out and the "country code" of the number plate. It also has to supply the Revenue with the "make, model, type and colour (if known)" of the car.
Drivers of unregistered cars are now facing the prospect of them being seized by Revenue and held until they have paid the VRT and fines of up to €5,000.
The Revenue would not say if it was planning to offer any incentive -- such as lower fines and penalties -- to drivers of unregistered cars to come forward before they are detected.
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) estimates the State is losing out on between €50m and €100m a year because of people failing to pay VRT on cars imported from the North and Britain.
According to the SIMI, there were 26,523 used cars imported here in the first five months of the year, compared to 62,958 new vehicles purchased.
The SIMI claimed there were a number of loopholes in the system, including motorists being issued with temporary insurance certificates to allow them to import the car and these certs being extended even if the car is not registered in Ireland.
The Irish Insurance Federation said its members did not issue certs to foreign-registered cars.
But the data now being handed over to the Revenue means it will be able to target owners of unregistered cars.
Section 111 in the 2010 Finance Act updated the provisions covering VRT in the 1992 Finance Act.
Although it came into force at the start of the year, the monthly data from the insurance companies has only recently started to be sent to the Revenue.
In another reform of the system, motorists hoping to import cheap used cars will now be required to put the vehicle through a "pre-registration" test to assess the VRT due.
This is a change to the current system where some cars can escape formal examination and which, it is believed, has been exploited by some motorists.
Motor industry sources claim owners of hundreds of imported cars are paying less VRT than they should -- or none at all.
The National Car Test Service (NCTS) -- run by private firm Applus+ -- will begin to roll out the pre-registration test "shortly", according to the Revenue.
And in a further change, all drivers who import cars will be given one week to register it and pay VRT.
Previously, they were required to register within one day but this was not practical and was widely ignored.
But under the new regulations drivers will have a week to register for an appointment with the NCTS and must have their car registered within 30 days of importing it.