Retired shop assistant hit for €74,727 excise bill for unmarked diesel

Customs officers raided farm as part of investigation into alleged smuggling

A retired female shop assistant has been hit with an excise duty bill of €74,727 relating to unmarked diesel that was uncovered as part of an investigation into an alleged smuggling operation.

In June 2016, customs officers and gardaí, including members of the armed response unit, as part of Revenue’s Operation Chess investigation, searched a Border county farm where they detected 52,000 litres of hydrocarbon fuel in the form of diesel engine road vehicle (DERV) fuel.

The woman was also the registered owner of the farm after inheriting the lands from her late husband.

Arising from the raid, Revenue initially issued the woman with an excise duty tax bill of €298,908 relating to unmarked diesel.

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The woman appealed the assessment to the Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) and, on appeal, commissioner Conor O’Higgins reduced the bill by €224,181 to €74,727.

Mr O’Higgins found that there was no admissible evidence to support Revenue’s contention that the woman should be liable to excise duty from18 deliveries on five separate lorries in March and April 2016

However, Mr O’Higgins found that the woman was liable to pay excise duty of €74,727 chargeable on six deliveries totalling 156,000 litres of DERV, which were made in April and June 2016.

In evidence, the woman said she never had any involvement in the running of the farm, had not set foot in the larger part of the farm in over 20 years and had no knowledge of what took place there.

The woman told the TAC hearing she said that far from being a farmer, she had worked as a shop assistant until 2014 at which point she retired from work altogether.

The woman asserted that her ownership of the lands, including the farmland, was in “name only” and the true owner, she said, was her son.

The woman accepted that the farm’s herd number was in her name and that she was in receipt of State farm subsidies.

She repeated, however, that she was not a farmer, stating that “I don’t deal with any of that. That’s not my department.”

In his findings, Mr O’Higgins found that the woman was the owner of the farm and that her son, at least for her lifetime, has no legal entitlement to possess it.

Mr O’Higgins considered her credibility as a witness in her own cause to be in doubt.

As a consequence of this, Mr O’Higgins found that the available evidence suggests that she, as one of the two farm owners, and the person who derived income from the farming, must be the person to whom the deliveries of hydrocarbon oil were made.

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