Thursday 17 October 2019

Consultant's verdict: tax not due on loans

Lorna Reid and  Fergus Black

BERTIE Ahern phoned a tax consultant for advice about the 'dig-out' loans he received in 1993 and 1994.

The eight or nine-minute call made some time in 2000 followed a newspaper article about the now infamous Manchester dinner where Mr Ahern was given stg£8,000. The call was made four years before the former Taoiseach was ever contacted by the Mahon Tribunal about his personal finances.

Tax expert Noel Corcoran yesterday told the planning probe he remembered the call and its details.

"It's not every day that you get a phonecall about a private matter from the Taoiseach of the country," Mr Corcoran said.

He added that Mr Ahern wanted to know the tax position about loans totalling IR£32,000 from 12 friends in a 10-month period between 1993 and 1994, and also about the status of the stg£8,000 he had received in Manchester. Mr Corcoran said he was able to advise Mr Ahern that there was no gift tax liability for the loans or the gift.

Although he did not take notes, nor treat the call as a professional consultation, Mr Corcoran said he believed the matter was fairly straightforward, based on the information supplied by Mr Ahern.

"There was no explicit statement that these loans had been repaid, but it was implicit that the loans had not been repaid," Mr Corcoran added.

No interest had been charged on these loans, but Mr Corcoran said he asked this question because it could have been important from a tax point of view. Mr Corcoran said he had accepted what Mr Ahern told him about the loans.

"It is always better if there is proper documentation but sometimes people don't think of the implication of something that is very simple on the day could be complicated in the future," he added.

Tribunal counsel Des O'Neill said these loans were still outstanding 14 or 15 years after Mr Ahern received them.

A former president of the Institute of Taxation, Mr Corcoran added that Mr Ahern's query about a possible tax liability on the loans and the Manchester gift was not a complex one.

"Something like these series of loans was either within the tax net or not," he added.

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