As far as I know , Anthony Cafferkey and PJ Sheerin have never met and are unlikely to do so, but their worlds collided this week when both their names featured in the quarterly list of tax defaulters published in today's Irish Times. It's a list comprising 127 companies and individuals and Mr Cafferkey, a retired company director, was the star of the show with a €13, 546,478 settlement against him. That was the highest; PJ's settlement was a more modest, relatively speaking, €22,981 and that was the lowest.
These defaulters (a much politer term than some I could think of) are living right across the Republic, with a couple living in the North, including Anthony Cafferkey. Leitrim is the only county not represented in the list of shame and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Dublin featured the most debtors with 24. Mayo and Cork came a valiant second with 8 each and Wicklow made a late charge for second spot, with five. It was only on closer inspection that I realised that three out of the five Wicklow judgements were against two owners of the same fast food suppliers.
Probably the best known name on the list is Robert Mizzell, a well known country singer. He was on the Liveline radio show yesterday (Liveline with Joe Duuuuffy!!), explaining how he got himself into this mess - being on the road, self employed etc etc. Robert hasn't had a good few months; he's been audited, has to pay €60,000 in capital and fines (underdeclaration of income tax) and one of his favourite stars Garth Brooks didn't make it to Dublin. But, being a country singer, I'm sure there will be a song, the more maudlin the better, about his experiences.
There's a vast range of people and occupations on the list: engineers, builders, locksmiths, carpet fitters, farmers, grocers, retired company directors, publicans, an architect, a hotel owner from just up the road in Lisdoonvarna, taxi drivers, a farmer/fisherman/B+B owner from the Aran Islands, a used cooking oil importer, restaurant owners, hairdressers, a property developer/pony trekking service owner and retired auctioneers.
These audits, which Mizzell said can last upto a year and are very stressful, usually find undeclared or under declared Income Tax, VAT, PAYE, Corporation Tax or Capital Gains Tax. Occasionally there is something more exciting like an Offshore Funds Investigation, but 99% of the cases are run of the mill deliberate avoidance or perhaps genuine mistakes.
Some of the companies with charges against them are already in liquidation and Peter Wilcox, a retired dry cleaner from Wexford will be surprised to find out he owes just under €41,000 for an underdeclaration of VAT as he is listed as dead.
Anthony Cafferkey leads the Default Stakes by a country mile, but there are a two individuals, both in Dublin with €1m+ judgements against them. There is also a Dublin taxi driver, Michael Gill who owes the grand total of €636,447 and my personal favourite, purely from a schadenfreude point of view, is Marcella Gibbons, a debt collector. She owes €138,997. The old adage, 'walk a mile in my shoes' seems apt.
Some of these judgements may tip companies and individuals over the financial edge and whether they should be named and shamed in this way people will disagree over. The total levied in fines and added interest on the capital sums for this quarter comes to just over €31,633,000, not a small amount, but then I think of the penury that the bankers and politicians reduced Ireland to, without any obvious consequences, and I find myself thinking are these people all that bad?
The one glimmer of hope I found in the entire sorry mess is that Tipperary had five names on the list and Kerry only three and with the replay of the All Ireland Hurling at the end of the month between the two counties, perhaps Tipp fans will take this as a prophecy.