Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Retrospective Legislation

As the statutory rape debacle rumbles on, we are constantly reminded by the legal eagles that any new legislation cannot be made effective retrospectively.

Yet in 1994, then Minister for Finance Bertie Ahern introduced an amendment in the Finance Act which eliminated a benefit-in-kind tax liability for Ken Rohan* and made that tax change effective retrospectively to 1983!

So Mr Ahern can create retrospective legislation to facilitate an important party supporter but he can’t do it to protect young girls from sexual predators?

I’ll bet that if a constitutional referendum was held in the morning to reverse both those positions, it would be passed by an overwhelming majority of the public.

* Rohan's palatial home, Charleville in Enniskerry, was furnished with expensive antique furniture and objets d'art which were owned by his company.
The Revenue Commissioners had assessed him as having incurred a benefit-in-kind liability, reported at £1m+, for the private use of these company assets. Rohan was disputing the liability.
It was reported in the media that Rohan's accountants actually drafted the relevant section of the 1994 Finance Act which relieved him of any possible liability and backdated the relief to 1983. At a later date, it was confirmed by Govt that Rohan was the only individual in the country to claim relief under this special and unique provision.

Footnote: The first two paragraphs, without Ken Rohan's name, were published as a letter in the Irish Independent. Presumably Rohan and the rest of the text were rejected by the legal eagles.
However, I also sent this to Matt Cooper of TodayFM who wrote about the tax break in the Sunday Tribune over 10 years ago and he advises that he'll be writing about this in the Sunday Times. Also, Diarmuid Doyle, current editor of the Sunday Tribune has responded to say he'll use the topic this coming sunday.

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