Thursday 23 November 2017

High Court to rule on O'Brien tax appeal

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien

Tim Healy

THE Revenue Commissioners want the High Court to strike out an appeal by businessman Denis O'Brien related to a finding that his tax return 14 years ago was insufficient due to being compiled in a negligent manner.

In 2010, an inspector of taxes sought answers to questions about Mr O'Brien's returns for 1999-2000, the court heard.

In particular, the inspector asked questions about the exchange of Mr O'Brien's holding of shares in Esat Telecom for certain loans in a company called BT Hawthorn, Brian Murray, for the Revenue, said.

While the raising of such questions is limited by a time bar of four to six years, this limit is not applicable if the inspector believes the taxpayer's returns are insufficient due to being compiled in a negligent manner, counsel said.


The inspector in this case made such a finding. Mr O'Brien appealed and an appeals commissioner found Mr O'Brien had not established the inspector did not have reasonable grounds for his finding, counsel said.

Mr O'Brien exercised his right to appeal that decision to the Circuit Court.

He also separately sought to have a case stated, on a point of law related to the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, to the High Court.

However, the case stated was not brought within the permitted time and the Revenue applied for, and was granted, an order that it be struck out, Mr Murray said.

Shortly afterwards, the Circuit Court appeal came before Judge Jacqueline Linnane. She refused to list the appeal for hearing after the Revenue successfully argued Mr O'Brien had elected to have the matter dealt with by way of case stated in the High Court.

Mr O'Brien appealed that Circuit Court decision to the High Court but the Revenue are now asking that it, too, be struck out.

The Revenue contended Mr O'Brien was not permitted to appeal under Section 31.2 of the Courts of Justice Act 1936 which provides there cannot be an appeal of a Circuit Court decision in relation to a tax matter such as this. Mr O'Brien opposed the strike out application.

His counsel, Martin Hayden, said the Circuit Court never actually heard the substantive appeal but only dealt with whether the case could be listed.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton said he would give his decision in due course.

Irish Independent

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