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Sinead Ryan: Here's how we can get that €100m from those car tax cheats

While the IMF is busy clobbering us with new and imaginative cutbacks, I wonder if it's aware that there's an easy-peasy €100m sitting around waiting to be collected by cash-strapped local authorities for roads, water services, playgrounds and whatever else councils use our money for.

Yep, it's in the hands of a few frustrated civil servants sitting in Shannon who know it's there, but can't get at it.

Motor tax is worth more than a billion euro, making it a lucrative collection pot. Yet between 8-10pc don't pay up.

In the Vehicle Licensing Office in Shannon there's a list of every motorist driving an untaxed car. It's sent to garda stations twice weekly to 'help' them find offenders. This is because only gardai can legally enforce payment, but they appear to favour the expensive, overtime-heavy checkpoint duty instead to catch people on the off-chance. Crazy, isn't it? So let's get serious, and here's how:

1 If I don't pay my TV licence, an inspector will turn up on my doorstep. This has actually happened, to my mortification. I'm issued with a warning and a fine, pronto. That's because RTE pays An Post to do the dirty bit - they already know the non-payers, just like the motor tax people, but they actually want the money.

2 Or we could follow the British example. They also have a list of tax spongers but send out warning letters to them routinely with fines if they don't tax their cars on time. They also have the power to clamp repeat offenders. Result? The motor tax evasion rate is 0.8pc - 10 times lower.

3 How about making it less painful to pay? If I can buy stamps to save toward my TV licence, or Christmas groceries, then why not my motor tax? Make them available in every shop and post office to encourage compliance. For the lowest tax band, it's just €2 per week -- much easier to find than €104, and more likely to be paid.

4 Or how about inserting a clause into every motor insurance policy that states a claim can be voided if the driver hasn't paid his motor tax? Far fewer people are going to muck about with their insurance than with tax. They'd be too worried about the consequences.

5 And why not follow the example of the new property tax that's due in: when you're selling, you have to prove all your taxes are paid, otherwise they're automatically deducted from the sale price. Cars are traded far more often than houses, so it's a good way to catch slow payers.

Last year up to 250,000 motorists didn't pay their motor tax. Yet only 73,000 penalty notices were issued through the garda-based system. Yet every single name, address and car number is on a file.

It's time to get real about tax evaders.

They're not all offshore property magnates. Sometimes the finger can be pointed much closer to home.


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