Monday, December 03, 2012

An Apple By Any Other Name Would Not Smell LIke Garlic

What with Ireland being desperate for cash, it's no wonder that the Revenue probe has reached into every possible crevice in search of tax dodgers.

It's also no wonder that anyone who can is trying to dodge their tax burden. For businesses, margins are slim and if it's a question of not paying the government or not paying your employees, it isn't much of a choice.

The employees will notice the empty pay packet. The government, not so much.

Businessmen do get caught, however, and the courts throw fines and custodial sentences at them, but the latest case has raised some legal eyebrows.

Paul Begley runs his family-owned produce firm, the largest in Ireland. Being a savvy man, he noticed that the import duties on apples from China was next to nothing, while the fees for importing garlic were astronomical.

Where to cut costs?

He had the garlic labeled as apples, paid the apple fare, and thought he'd been rather clever.

Not so clever as he needed to be. Mr. Begley was found out, he admitted his guilt, cooperated with the Revenue people, and stood ready to take his punishment.

The judge, apparently more incensed over the fraud than previous such cases, handed down a sentence of six years.

Mr. Begley wasn't trimming expenses during the downturn, unfortunately for him. He was manipulating labels during the boom years, back in 2003, and he called his apples 'garlic' at least four times through 2007.

Even so, the sentence seems a bit harsh.

Mr. Begley certainly thinks so.

He has appealed it, the longest stretch ever given for deceptions such as his, citing the severity that is not in keeping with previous practice.

Whether or not the judiciary panel will have mercy is hard to determine. Things being what they are these days, with weepy tales of grannies facing a frigid winter because their heating allowance must be cut, Mr. Begley may face a steep uphill climb.

The taxpayers are angry, and their mood is not improving with all the talk of austerity budgets and cuts to welfare programs. The politicians will look to appease those voters, in the hope of retaining their comfortable seats in the Dail.

Mr. Begley's time for his crime may become the new normal for the next round of miscreants apprehended for dodging their taxes. Heads on pikes are always good for the business when business is attracting votes.

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