Revenue recovers €1m in car scam crackdown

REVENUE officers have confiscated 54 cars and recovered more than €1 million in a nationwide crackdown on a car tax scam.

Car dealers and individuals are importing luxury cars — such as Jaguars and Maseratis — and converting them into commercial vehicles.

This dramatically cuts the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) payable.

The rate for commercial vehicles like vans and trucks is only €50, but can be tens of thousands of euro for private luxury cars.

Revenue officials will be prosecuting 11 people in coming months while court proceedings in 40 other cases are being considered.

“A new operation was set up in the last couple of months targeting the conversion of private cars to commercial vehicles,” said John Leamy, assistant secretary in the Dublin region.

He said it had emerged as a big problem after they seized a number of cars.

“When we checked back to see what was the VRT paid on particular cars we seized we found the VRT paid did not bear any resemblance to the correct VRT based on the state we found the car in.”

Mr Leamy added: “When you convert to commercial the VRT is only €50. Depending on the value of a car you could be talking VRT upwards of €20,000, and in this situation you are talking about high-value cars.”

Motorists often make superficial changes to vehicles, such as removing rear seats, to claim the lower VRT, but immediately undo the changes afterwards.

Mr Leamy said the operation was a few months old and that already 54 cars had been seized and VRT of €1.1m and VAT of €315,000 had been recovered.

He said the seizures were made across the country and that both individuals and car dealers were involved.

The crackdown followed a highly successful operation targeting garages, car dealers and individuals involved in importing luxury cars and paying no VRT or VAT at all.

A total of 160 vehicles, with a combined value of €5.5m, were seized as part of Operation Viking. Half of the vehicles were luxury cars, such as Jaguars, Aston Martins and Porsches.

These cars were released back to their owners after almost €1.5m was paid in outstanding VRT and VAT.

Five garages and car dealers paid more than €850,000 following audits. A sixth audit is ongoing, while three further cases have been taken over by the Criminal Assets Bureau due to suspected criminal involvement.

The Revenue annual report for 2006 said that, separate to both these investigations, 993 vehicles were seized in 2006 as part of routine “blitz-style operations” against motorists last year.

This led to the recovery of almost €8m in VRT and penalties of €700,000.

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