Wednesday 13 December 2017

Car importer's VRT case fails

Tim Healy

A USED car importer has failed in a bid to force the Government to reduce the taxes on cars here.

The car importer had claimed in a €130m High Court action that the Revenue Commissioners' scheme for assessing vehicle registration tax was unfair and arbitrary.

Used Car Importers of Ireland Ltd (UCII), Centre Park Road, Cork, claimed VRT discriminates in favour of the domestic car trade and against importers by imposing artificially high values on imported used cars.

Set up in 1988 by car repair businessmen Niall O'Dowling and Fintan Riordan, after they noticed an unmet demand for quality used cars in the Irish market, UCII claimed its business was decimated when VRT was brought in in 1993, changing the way imported cars were taxed.

The importers claimed the way VRT was calculated on their imports was, among other things, secretive and lacking in transparency. Its ambition of becoming a major car importer was not achieved because it could not calculate VRT in advance, unlike under the old system, and because the VRT system was overvalued.

Market share

The company's experts told the court the estimated loss of opportunity to maintain its pre-1993 share of the market between 1993 and 2009 was around €130m.

The action against Finance Minister Michael Noonan, the Revenue Commissioners, Ireland and the attorney general ran for 33 days in the High Court last year.

As well as damages for loss of opportunity, UCII sought an injunction requiring the publication of values of new and used cars for the purpose of calculating VRT.

Yesterday, Judge Roderick Murphy said the UCII case must fail.

The judge said the calculation of loss by UCII's experts was based on the landed cost of each imported car whereas the legislation entitled Revenue to relate the tax to the open-market selling price of the vehicle as well as to the car sales guide as used by the main car dealers.

UCII's expert evidence was also based on an assumption that the company would maintain its market share when the evidence was to the contrary, the judge said.

The court heard last year that UCII brought its proceedings in 1995.

Following several years of seeking disclosure of documents needed for the case, it began in March 2012.

Costs in the case will be decided next week.

Irish Independent

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