Thursday, 29 January 2009

Is there a case for VRT?

Has Gombeen Man missed something? Or is it the Irish motor industry that is blind to the very large (and very smelly) elephant in the showroom?

An article in the motoring section of yesterday’s Irish Times reports on the current trend for people to buy second-hand vehicles up north, lured, as they are, by cheaper Sterling prices (and let’s not have that tiresome patriotism argument again).

There is much comment from those within the industry, speculating as to how the consumer exodus might be reversed, with domestic car dealers having already seen a 66% drop in new car sales on last year, according to the IT.

Many options are discussed, with SIMI calling for a new scrappage scheme to “boost” the domestic market. The same organisation calculates that Government revenue from tax on cars will fall to below €1 billion in 2009, which sounds unhealthily like extortion to me, but will still be down from a jaw-dropping €2 billion in 2007.

Toyota Ireland’s managing director, Dave Shannon, is quoted as calling for a reduction in VAT from 21% to Britain’s level of 15% - a move he feels would be beneficial for the industry in the Republic. However, SIMI’s Alan Nolan is not so upbeat on this approach, maintaining “there are European requirements on VAT, so this is not straightforward.”

“Helloo!”, as the young things say in those American TV shows. Has everyone forgotten about VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax), which the Irish Government insists on applying to cars imported to, and sold in, this country? The EU has been asking the Government to remove this tax for years, on the grounds that is a double tax (applied after VAT) and is contrary to the free movement of goods between EU states. Our Government(s), and our present joke Commissioner in Europe, Charlie Mc Creevy, have ignored these calls.

Here’s how the Government VRT scam works:

When a car is imported into this country, you – or the dealer – are legally required to register it here. So, Revenue apply VAT of 21% on a base price concocted by a term of their own invention, which they call the "OMSP" (“Open” Market Selling Price). The OMSP is arbitrarily decided by Revenue to apply a VRT tax ranging from 14% to 36% to bring your car’s price to a level they consider suitably inflated for the Irish market. Due to the size, complexity and variety of the second-hand market, it is less easy for Revenue to accurately "calculate" the prices of used car imports as it is for them to restrict the new car market - hence with lower VAT and Sterling, it can still be possible to buy second-hand car cheaper in the north (if you do your homework) despite VRT being applied. But you are still paying way over the odds.

If anyone is stupid enough to require a reason for being “unpatriotic” in an Irish context, this tax alone is enough. It is immoral, it is uncompetitive, it distorts trade, and it lacks even the most subtle hint of transparency. If you don’t believe me, do a search to determine how it is calculated. But all you need to know is that you can end up paying over 40% more for your car in this country than you would in other some other EU states.

Successive Irish governments in the history of this banana republic have been foisting this scam on us with impunity for decades and decades, so they will never end it voluntarily.

Once again, Brussels is our only hope. Take a case, anyone?

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Grit your teeth - the road isn't

Gombeen Man had a jaunt into the countryside yesterday to see an acquaintance in the lovely county of Leitrim. As is usual with these things, conversation soon got around to our prolonged cold snap (can a “snap”, by definition, be prolonged? Lets say “spell” instead).

Apparently the roads have been treacherous around that neck of the woods, with villages such as Dromod and Mohill being particularly badly affected, due to the council’s budget not stretching to grit each and every road. It seems that only national and “priority roads” stand a reasonable chance of remaining safe when the thermometer takes a plunge. Last December was a particularly wicked month, with a spate of accidents on “minor” roads - including those in and out of villages. Fortunately there were no deaths or major injuries.

Even I was surprised, however, when told that a local councilor had come up with a novel solution to combat the problem: villagers should grit the roads themselves!

According to a December report by Leonie McKiernan, in the Leitrim Observer, Councillor Caillian Ellis noted that “not everybody lived along the main routes and this left a large proportion badly affected by the icy roads”, so he suggested that “sand or grit be left at various locations around the county so local residents could apply it if necessary.”

I assumed my friend was extracting the yellowy fluid, until I was shown the actual report from the paper. It was true!

As Christy Moore once said: “Don’t forget yer shovel if you want to go to work”…

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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Who are the worst: the gardai or the skangers?

Ah yes, it’s great knowing we can sleep soundly in our beds with the boys and girls of the Garda Síochána out there looking after us. Unless they’re buzzing around 50 metres above our houses in their helicopter, for no apparent reason, of course.

They really are a top-class police force, of which we should be giddily proud. Never mind those wishy-washy liberals and anarchist malcontents, alike, having a pop at them - undermining their tireless efforts to protect us from the baddies!

Rabble-rousing anarchists such as Justice Morris, for instance. He claimed to have discovered a culture of “endemic corruption” while investigating gardai in Donegal. But can attempting to frame innocent citizens for murder, planting explosives so as to “discover” them as arms caches, making false arrests, beating people in custody, extracting false confessions, perverting the course of justice and committing perjury really be considered corrupt? Surely not!

The current issue of Dublin 15’s Community Voice reports another novel take on the concept of law-keeping by the rozzers, when they nicked a man whose car had just been nicked.

Apparently Gary Pierce was at a party in Castlecurragh, near Mulhuddart, when he looked out to discover a blank space where his car should have been. While walking around the local environs in an attempt to find the missing vehicle - presumably with a few pints on board - Gary’s apparent lack of faith in the Gardai to do the job was confirmed when he was arrested after “stepping out in front” of a stray squad car.

The luckless reveler ended up in court, was fined €50, and told by the judge to “curb his drinking problem”.

It is not known if the police managed to recover his car, and arrest those who stole it.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

No-one as Irish as Barack Obama. Whatever.

“… O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara there's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama…. toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama, there's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama...”


“He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew, he's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too, he’s in the white house, he took his chance, now let’s see Barack do Riverdance...”

Just when you think being (really) Irish is bad enough, it gets even more embarrassing. The talent of many here for self-delusional, cringe-inducing, bandwagon-jumping paddywhackery is well known (the author of this blog and its readers excepted, of course).

The latest in a long line of muscial bozos (led by Bono) to embarrass us in the eyes of the world are the Corrigan Brothers, who hail from “the rich pastures of Tipperary”.

Not ones to be limited by parochial loyalty, however, the boys were quick to jump on “painstaking research” showing that Barack’s great-great-great grandfather was born in the Offaly village of Moneygall. That’s appropriate, as it really is galling that some people will do anything to make a bit of shameless money on the back of a progressive world event.

Then throw in the name Obama, which with a little imagination can be reconstructed as O’Bama, or maybe even O’Bamaich, and there you have it - an instant piece of Irish mythology to stand the test of time.

Already, the denizens of Moneygall are getting the bunting out in anticipation of a US presidential visit along the lines of Reagans’s Ballyporeen trip - one of the most debased events ever. You can just hear the cash registers ringing in anticipation as the local eejits imagine the new-hope-of-the-world supping a mouldy Guinness or two in the village bar.

But Barack Obama is not Ronald Reagan. He’s too cool, too intelligent and too sophisticated to be drawn into such an undignified circus by a bunch of opportunist half-wits. Isn’t he?

If not, we can all give up hope.

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Nationalisation of Anglo - Irish style

In many developed countries, governments make some attempt to obscure their cosy relationship with the powerful and wealthy – but not so in Ireland. That’s one area of Irish life that is, to be fair, admirably transparent. In fact, the relationship between elected representatives and various golden circles has been so well-documented over the decades that you might wonder why we bother holding elections at all, so obvious is the oligarchy.

Transparency of course, was not always to the fore in the decline and involuntary rescue by the taxpayer of Anglo Irish Bank. It’s last chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, famously managed to hide his €87 million in loans from the bank’s shareholders and auditors alike.

Now, however, it seems that the resulting near collapse of Anglo – which was, in common with other Irish banks, overly exposed to property debts – will see a typically Irish form of nationalisation.

You might have thought that those who got the economy into such trouble by running up debts and inflating capital assets through the Government-fuelled property boom (you’ve seen it elsewhere on this blog: Section 23 and other property tax shelters, capital gains reductions) might have to take some of the pain that the rest of us are being instructed to endure – but not a bit of it.

When plans to nationalise Anglo were drawn up, one condition was that customers who owed the bank more than €20 million would not be allowed to remove funds from below the level of that debt. Most people might say that’s reasonable enough. Predictably, however, that proviso has now been removed, as it “would have created a disincentive to those customers lodging money with the bank” and might be “legally flawed” according to today’s Independent.

If you can’t quite see the economic logic behind that, and it gives you a vaguely uncomfortable “this isn’t right” feeling, don’t worry. Minister of State Martin Mansergh assured us yesterday - before this announcement was made - that Ireland is “not a banana republic”, and all that is needed is for us to retain our Celtic Tiger optimism.

That’s reassuring. But did “Celtic Tiger optimism” – based as it was on nothing more tangible than that - not get us into this mess in the first place?

Friday, 16 January 2009

Cut-price hand jobs a sure economic indicator

One of Gombeen Man's spies spotted and snapped the above image in Co Meath the other day. The big difference between today's recession and that of the Eighties, is that hand jobs didn't exist in Catholic Ireland back then. Unless you were a member of the clergy, of course.

Gombeen Man is at pains to point out that he's not familiar with this sector of the market, but doesn't eight Euros seem quite cheap? Maybe the ESRI should include this in their next economic indicator?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Moving Statues ready for a recessionary encore?

It’s recession time, so maybe it’s also time to dust off the moving statues once again?

It seems that Northern Ireland is leading the way on slump-busting supernatural phenonema this time round, following sightings of a sprightly “90 year-old” ghost in County Tyrone.

According to the BBC, crowds of people have been descending on the accursed spot, near Coalisland (and who would argue that it’s not?), in expectation of seeing the spirit of an old woman flitting across the fields in the vicinity of a local pub.

Apparently - or apparitionately - Ryan Bell, whose father owns the local hostelry, was first to spot the spectre, and has seen it a total of six times. What’s happening here? Are we letting those Northerners steal a march on us?

Gombeen Man is unsure how many of you were around in the 80s, but this was a time of true Irish enterprise, before the likes of Bill Gates and co were attracted to the country by the IDA and our “business-friendly” corporate tax regime.

Then, no self-respecting publican or farmer with a good field which could double as a car park was slow to spot evidence of supernatural shenanigans down at the nearby grotto. At first the statues just showed slight signs of movement, but this was enough to attract the faithful flocks to sacred sites all over the country.

After a while, like any drug, this wasn’t enough, and the stone(d) figures – usually of Our Lady – progressed onto fully blown dancing. It seems that the longer the crowds gawped in expectation at the figures, the more spectacular things became.

Gombeen Man can even remember reports of visitations in the skies, in the shape and form (if there is such a thing) of various saints, who the pious recognized at a glance. St Jude was a popular performer, and certainly seemed eager to dispel the monotony for those on the ground, who fully expected to see a spiritual spectacular… no matter how long it might take.

Cynics dismissed these events – and the young Gombeen Man was one – as manifestations of mass psychosis and local opportunism on the part of farmers, but many seemingly sane people seemed to think “there might be something in it”. You could only be moved by it all … moved to pity for the credulous.

So watch this space, as our recession bites deeper, and the country’s statues dust themselves down, shake the stiffness out of their inanimate joints, and start giving Michael Flatley a run for his money.

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Friday, 9 January 2009

Ding Gone Dell

Gombeen Man has every sympathy for the 1,900 workers in Dell, Limerick, who have found themselves summarily dismissed by conglomerate greed. Surely this is only early days in the trend that will see yet more US multinationals up sticks in favour of better offers elsewhere?

Did we really think it could last, as our cost of living was driven upwards by inflationary Government policies? And given how much workers now have to pay for their humble apartments and semis, bought during the boom, could they really work for peanuts?

The EU is carrying out an investigation into state aid from the Polish government which, along with lower wage costs, attracted Dell east. But is there not an irony in Labour senator Alan Kelly saying "It is important that when Ireland is seeking to attract and retain major employers, we are operating on an even playing field".

An even playing field? Corporate tax rate of 12.5%, anyone?

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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Hitler, the EU, and the Little Irelanders

The freebie Metro is always good for a laugh.

There has been a series of letters recently, comparing the EU to the Nazis. One comment went “the difference between the EU and Hitler is the difference between consensual sex and rape.” “Omigod!!!!!!!!”, as some of the Metro’s texters might exclaim.

Gombeen Man finds it interesting that, at a time when there are so many going on to third-level education, there has never been so much ignorance openly on display in Ireland. Perhaps the people who express such views - and we may surmise they are generally young – should open up a European history book, or maybe get something out on DVD or Blue-ray on the subject?

If they did, they would find the Third Reich and the Second World War were caused by the kind of petty, chauvinistic nationalism that they themselves espouse. In contrast, the European Project had an admirable political, as well as economic motivation. It was an antidote to the destrucive nationalism that had so nearly brought Europe to ruin.

It’s a bit sweet for the small-minded nationalist Little Irelanders, who obviously subscribe to the notion of one people and one race, to compare the EU with someone like Hitler.

Or Padraig Pearse.

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Saturday, 3 January 2009

Lack of morals is the usual story

Should anyone be surprised that Mayo TD, Beverley Flynn, continues to pocket an independent TD’s allowance, despite no longer holding that status? Flynn was readmitted into Fianna Fail by fellow shyster, Bertie Ahern, last April, but continues to draw the independent’s allowance of €41,000, on top of her €106,581 salary. And it’s perfectly legal, you won't be surprised to hear.

According to the Irish Independent, she can continue enjoying the extra 41 grand until 2012, because she entered the Dail as an independent. However, some people feel that it might be appropriate for Flynn to forego the extra cash on moral grounds. Erm… morality and Beverly Flynn in the same sentence?

This is the same woman who advised people on tax evasion when she worked for National Irish Bank. She then attempted to sue RTE for libel, when they reported her transgressions, and eventually lost the case. She then paid less than half of the legal costs she had accrued.

But this is Ireland, and such people are venerated rather than despised, and accordingly, 6,779 of the good folk of Mayo saw fit to give her their first preference votes in the last election. What does that say about them, and Irish standards in general?

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