Last Day of “Legal” Tax Evasion

Today, an era of tax evasion ends … it is no longer (semi-)legal to dodge road tax in Ireland. I only found out when I went to the local library and saw that there were queues like I’ve never seen before. Consisting of, well, a certain segment of society mainly. You could call them chavs or neds, but not all were young and not all were male. But still … they were queuing at the tax office. Has the world gone mad?

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Ireland simply can be fascinating at times. Take the laws of the road … for ages you were okay to drive after you have just proven that you are unable to drive by failing a test. They called this “temporary license”, it has been changed by now. Then there are the cops themselves, the Garda Traffic Corps … an internal audit found that a number of gardai driving the Traffic Corps patrol vehicles were not licensed to drive. Obviously actually following the letter of the law they are hired to enforce took a second (driver’s) seat to apprehending the well-known Polish criminal Prawo Jazdy.

And then there was road tax …

In Ireland, road tax is documented by one of the four stickers on every windscreen (insurance, tax and NCT are mandatory, the Padre Pio badge rounds the ensemble off). Controls consist of looking whether you have a tax disc displayed, from a distance of about two metres. It is no wonder that many people choose to go the cheaper way of having one done up in Photoshop, the copies are often of a better quality than the original. Boasting about this on the internet is fairly idiotic, but doing it on the quiet is common. The whole thing only blew up when the car was sold and the new owner asked to pay arrears (with interest).

The way around this was easy: simply declare that the car was off the road. This could be done retrospectively. And it was very common, especially in less-policed areas, to see outdated tax discs or none at all. If you got caught by the guards, you simply said you were on the way to the tax office to re-tax your car as it had been off the road. The guards then went into mental robocop mode most of the time and signed a sheet of paper that actually “documented” this. Off you went, got tax for a month or so and the whole game started again. And the guards usually only copped on when they caught the same tax evader several times themselves.

Now the law changed …

You simply cannot do this any more, as the car now has to be declared “off the road” beforehand, complete with all relevant documentation. Or you’ll have to pay arrears. Hence the scramble to pay road tax all of a sudden.

Which led to memorable scenes of hilarity – one guy I passed was on the phone and loudly complained that “de feckers would nae tax me car”! He already did not have the appearance of the sharpest tool in the box, but looks can be deceiving. However … his next sentence hammered the point home in a very blunt way: “Of course I have insurance, but I could nae remember de feckin details, so I jist filled some numbers in – dey said it wasn’t the right numbers, dey did!”

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