Labour TD risks censure for failing to provide tax cert

Labour TD Arthur Spring failed to provide a tax clearance certificate to the State’s ethics watchdog for over a year after being elected in a move which was “intentional” and a serious matter, an investigation has found.

Mr Spring faces the possibility of censure or suspension from the Dáil, under the regulations, after contravening legislation governing the declaration of taxes for TDs.

The Irish Examiner has obtained a copy of the investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) which had sent six letters to the Kerry North-Limerick West TD over the last year and contacted him by phone several times to remind him of his obligations under the law.

Mr Spring’s tax clearance certificate was only received by Sipo, it said, on Tuesday, after the commission delivered its report to the Oireachtas committee on members’ interests on Mar 13.

TDs must furnish evidence of compliance with tax obligations not more than nine months after being elected. This includes a tax clearance certificate and a statutory declaration on their affairs.

Newly-elected TDs of the 31st Dáil were sent letters outlining their obligations from Sipo on Mar 7 last year. A follow-up letter was sent in October.

By February, 33 TDs were found by Sipo to have contravened legislation by failing to observe the time limit. The breach was deemed as “technical in nature” by Sipo as it had received their documents by then and decided not to investigate.

However, none had been provided by Mr Spring by then. His delay in submitting the documents is understood to be the longest by any TD in at least the last three general elections.

He had told Sipo when contacted by phone on Nov 25 that he did not have a tax clearance certificate. Later that month, he called to say he was about to fax one through or post it.

He was sent a further letter on Dec 14 and a final one on Feb 7 advising him that Sipo was to consider launching an investigation. On Feb 13, Sipo decided to investigate, informing Mr Spring through a further letter and of his requirement to reply.

The investigation found he contravened the standards in public office legislation by failing to furnish the declaration and tax certificate within nine months. “As Deputy Spring has been fully informed of his obligations on a number of occasions, the Standards Commission can only conclude that his failure to observe them is intentional and is in all the circumstances a serious matter.”

Mr Spring, a former banker with Anglo Irish Bank, last night said: “It wasn’t intentional. I applied for the cert and got it. It was an oversight on my part. I was owed money by the Revenue. I underestimated the urgency and the need to furnish the materials to Sipo.

“At no stage was I not compliant [with Revenue]. If I had been in a position to sit down and have a conversation with [Sipo], I would have understood to have had the Revenue issue a cheque to myself as I had overpaid my taxes.”

Sipo yesterday said it received Mr Spring’s tax clearance cert on Mar 27.

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