Friday, May 04, 2007

Retrospective Legislation

Whenever a loophole in the law is discovered and closed, we are routinely assured that it is not possible to change the law retrospectively.

Thus chancers and tax dodgers who have availed of such loopholes get to keep the benefits they’ve managed to extract from the system - whether that gets them off a drink-driving charge or avail of huge but unintended tax reliefs.

However, when it comes to political bribes, there seems to be no such problem with making legislation retrospectively effective. Thus Fianna Fail can finally unveil their stamp duty proposals and increased mortgage interest reliefs for first time buyers, both backdated. Fianna Fail promises that both these measures will be given retrospective effect if the party is returned to power.

This isn’t the first time that FF has pulled such a stunt on behalf of its supporters. Back when Bertie was Finance Minister in the early 1990s, the Revenue Commissioners were pursuing Ken Rohan for a BIK tax assessment of over £1m. Not only did Bertie introduce an amendment in the Finance Bill which removed the particular BIK liability, he also backdated the effect of that amendment for a period of 12 years.

Rohan was able to tear up the Revenue bill, and it was later confirmed that Rohan was the only person in the country to apply for relief under that tax provision. No one should assume that regular political donations had anything to do with the then Minister for Finance’s consideration in this case.

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