A car dealer has been jailed for four years after he failed to pay over €220,000 Vat on secondhand vehicles.
John Hughes, aged 55, has since repaid the tax of €226,718, which was due on 119 cars. He also offered his bail bond of €50,000 and an additional €20,000 from his share of the sale of a French site to go towards the fine and penalties that will be due.
The court heard that Hughes used the Vat number from a defunct company that he had worked in for eight months to allow for the vehicles to be imported from Britain. He sold on the vehicles and charged Vat on them but never returned that tax to Revenue.
Hughes, previously with an address in Cula Road, Bray, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sample counts of failing to pay Vat on dates between July 2003 and Feb 2006. He had no previous convictions.
He has been allowed to live in France while on bail pending sentence. He was a stay at home father while his partner worked full-time.
Judge Martin Nolan said tax evasion was an incredibly serious crime. “Obviously a person evades tax with the intention of not getting caught. They take a chance and if caught and brought before the courts they then think they can buy themselves out of a custodial sentence,” the judge said.
“I don’t think that is appropriate or fair to the other people in the country who mostly pay their tax.”
Judge Nolan said Hughes embarked on the offence with “malice and forethought” but accepted he was a man with a very good record and unlikely to bother the courts again. “He must pay for it as a matter of punishment and deterrence for other people considering going down this road.”
An inspector with Revenue Donal Costelloe told Colm O’Briain BL, prosecuting, that the 119 cars were valued at €1.27m.
Mr Costelloe accepted that Hughes has sold properties and has handed over his profits from the sale of a site in France to Revenue.
He accepted Hughes had also settled with Revenue in relation to unpaid income tax and paid over €685,000 which related to the tax liability of €278,000 and €516,000 in interest and fines. Mr Costelloe agreed that a further €100,000 was owed to Revenue in relation to this but said that Hughes has claimed that he is unable to pay the balance and Revenue has accepted this.
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