Anger grows over 'crazy' ban
Farmers and business owners vow to fight 'work only' vehicle tax law
STRUGGLING businesspeople and farmers nationwide are to flout the ban on their work vehicles being used for any family or social journeys.
This follows the revelation in yesterday's Irish Independent that local authorities have just been instructed to insist on owners of small commercial vehicles making legal declarations that the vehicles will only be used for work.
Amid widespread criticism of the move by the Department of the Environment, small and medium-sized businesses said they had no choice but to use the commercial 4x4s and small vans for both business and personal use.
When taxing the vehicle they must now sign a declaration that it will not be used "at any time for social, domestic or pleasure purposes". Businesspeople will continue to pay the reduced rate of €288 for commercial motor tax instead of the higher average of €1,204.
Mark Fielding, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said it had been inundated with calls about the changes. Most callers said they would continue to use their commercial vehicles for occasional personal use.
He said the issue of signing a declaration had not arisen before. "This latest vexatious green-tinged 'initiative' is crazy, is anti-business and will only exasperate thousands of self-employed individuals who are barely hanging on by their fingertips. These individuals have already been hit with significant increases in energy and transport costs due to the introduction of the carbon tax."
Gabriel Gilmartin, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA), called for a refusal by owners to co-operate with the request.
"If a farmer goes to a funeral on his way home from the mart, will he be at risk of being arrested for misuse of his commercial vehicle? If he picks up a loaf of bread, will he have to hide it under the cattle feed?"
If caught using the commercial vehicle on family journeys, an individual runs the risk of a fine, as it is an offence to make a false declaration to gardai.
A spokesman said gardai would continue to enforce all aspects of the road traffic legislation and urged all motorists to be fully compliant with it.
A survey of more than 500 members of Onlinetradesmen.ie revealed that Irish tradesmen felt unfairly targeted by increased costs. Ted Lavery, managing director of the site, said his members felt the proposal was "both unfair and untenable". More than 30pc of those surveyed said the proposals could be a tipping point in driving them out of business.
The Small Firms Association (SFA) said the directive to local councils was another nail in the coffin for small business. SFA director Avine McNally, said: "I question whether it would not be better for Government to focus its attention on initiatives that would assist, not hinder, small firms."
Several tradesmen told the Irish Independent yesterday that they had no family car and used the commercial vehicle at weekends for family journeys and shopping.
One Co Louth businessman, who did not want to be identified, said he was at his wits' end trying to make ends meet and never had to make a declaration restricting the use of the vehicle in the past. "I don't know what to do. I have no choice but to use the vehicle at weekends for family use," he said.
Labour's Liz McManus asked yesterday if similar restrictions on using work-related vehicles for personal use is to apply to ministerial cars. "It is unrealistic to ask for assurances from farmers, small business owners and tradespeople that they will never, under any circumstances, use their vehicle for non-commercial purposes."