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EU to challenge Ireland’s VRT laws 03.07.11

by Jessie Magee

A long-running campaign to exempt cross-border workers and students from paying Vehicle Registration Tax has made a breakthrough after the European Commission announced its intention to begin legal proceedings against Ireland for infringing freedom of movement.
Irish citizens who live in the Republic but spend much of their time in the North for work or study have been forced to live outside the law for years. They are obliged to pay UK car tax to be insured on the roads in the North, however when they return to the Republic at the weekend, they find themselves in breach of Irish tax law. Since VRT was introduced in 1993, thousands of UK-registered cars belonging to Irish motorists have been seized by revenue officers in the Republic.
But their Catch-22 situation may be coming to an end, thanks to a petition presented to the European Parliament earlier this year by Donegal resident Ryan Stewart. He claimed that the refusal by the Irish authorities to exempt cross-border workers from paying VRT represented an infringement on their right to move and work freely within the EU.
Up to now, the Irish Government’s position has been that any tax issue is within the jurisdiction of member states, however the Commission’s decision to take legal action suggests that Ireland’s VRT regime may indeed violate the EU treaties. North West MEP Marian Harkin, who has supported Mr Stewart’s campaign, said there is “no doubt” but that certain VRT regulations discriminate against those living in border areas. The Independent MEP said the Commission’s decision to take action is “just and fair...as certain categories of people are put in an impossible situation by the current application of VRT law”.
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