FG senator faces probes over lack of tax clearance cert

A Fine Gael senator is facing separate Seanad and party investigations after failing to provide a tax clearance certificate to the State’s ethics watchdog.

Pat O’Neill has breached the law by failing to provide the required documentation to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

Mr O’Neill, who is based in Kilkenny and regarded as an ally of Environment Minister Phil Hogan, last night told the Irish Examiner he had a capital gains tax bill that he had spent the last year paying off.

“But it has been cleared,” he said. “I’ve been paying it off for the last year and I paid the last instalment of it last Thursday.”

He said he would now seek to obtain the tax clearance cert from Revenue for Sipo.

However, that may not be enough to satisfy either Fine Gael or the cross-party Seanad committee that oversees such issues, both of which will now examine the case.

He could face internal party discipline and a possible 30-day suspension without pay from the Seanad.

Fine Gael said last night the matter would be investigated fully and expeditiously: “The party is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness.”

Meanwhile, it is understood the Seanad Committee on Members’ Interests held its initial discussion of the case at a meeting on Wednesday.

Under the Standards in Public Office Act, TDs and senators must, within nine months of being elected, provide Sipo with evidence they are compliant with tax obligations.

The evidence in question is a tax clearance cert or an application statement, which is issued by Revenue in cases where a person has applied for a cert but where a decision on the application has yet to be made.

Politicians must also provide a statutory declaration to Sipo testifying that they are not aware of any impediment to the issue of a clearance cert.

Mr O’Neill was elected in Apr 2011 and failed to provide Sipo with a clearance cert, application statement, or statutory declaration by the Jan 26 deadline. After being contacted by Sipo, he provided a statutory declaration on Feb 17 but failed to provide either the clearance cert or application statement.

He received numerous reminders and was eventually warned he was facing an investigation.

He failed to respond, and on Apr 16, Sipo launched an investigation, offering Mr O’Neill the opportunity to explain his breaches of the law. He again failed to respond.

In its report issued yesterday, Sipo stated: “As Senator O’Neill 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.”

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