I’m afraid I’m one of the people who admire Mick Wallace (pictured below). The “man of the people” image might be overblown, but he comes across as a quietly-, but considerately-spoken man with an educated and wise head on him that might be at variance with his dishevelled appearance. Active in the community through sports, and a man with a history of accomplishment under his belt and a non-politician, it was no surprise he topped the polls in Wexford in February 2011 as widespread anger and contempt for traditional politics saw so many new faces enter Leinster House.
Last week, out of the blue, he announced that he had knowingly under-declared VAT in his building business, that he had reached a €2.1m settlement with the Irish tax authorities, the Revenue Commissioners but that it was unlikely the debt would be paid as his business was in receivership and, under the terms of the settlement, the debt was owed by the business. He was prompted to make the announcement by the fact the Revenue Commissioners were this week publishing the list of tax sinners for Q1, 2012 – extract showing Mick’s company settlement above – and his company would feature prominently in that list.
Many might be able to sympathise with the man who said he under-declared the VAT in order to save his business – keeping up to 60 people in work and not disappointing his customers who had paid deposits, presumably – and people might also be able to sympathise with the panic you can feel when you screw up and in the case of the Irish property market, there was a lot of screwing-up and many property developers were caught short. So he says he made the under-declaration so as to conserve cash and consequently to save the business, in the hope that something would turn up so that he could make good on his sin.
Many people wouldn’t be able to sympathise with his actions up to this point, but even on here, the well of sympathy would run dry if the cash that was supposedly being conserved to save the business was in fact used to enrich Mick and his associates personally. The last accounts filed for the company appear to be for 2008 so we don’t have an answer for how the conserved cash was spent, but the accounts for 2008 show that Mick and his son who was the other director of the company drew €290,000 total salaries, which was double the previous year.
Here is the chronology uncovered so far:.
2008/9, it is unclear from media reporting but it seems to be suggested that the VAT under-declarations were made in 2009. VAT is generally paid on a 2-monthly basis, but we don’t know what 2-months period saw the under-declaration, or indeed if there were multiple under-declarations across a number of 2-month periods.
October 2010, Mick went to the Revenue to reveal the under-declaration of VAT. This would seem to be at least nine months – January to October 2010 – and possibly up to 20 months – March 2009 to October 2010 – after the under-declarations were made.
9th February 2011, Mick declares his candidacy for the impending general election
25th February 2011, Mick is elected as a TD for Wexford. He tops the polls for 1st preference votes with 13,329 ahead of Labour’s Brendan Howlin who received 11,005. Third, fourth and fifth seats in the 5-seat constituency went to John Browne (FF), Liam Twomey (FG) and Paul Kehoe (Government whip, FG).
May 2011, receivers appointed at the behest of ACC Bank to M&J Wallace Limited
November 2011, receivers appointed at the behest of ACC Bank to MJ Wallace Limited
Settlement with Revenue agreed in February 2012
June 2012, list of defaulters for Q1, 2012 published by the Revenue Commissioners
Many people cannot fathom why Mick can seemingly walk away scot-free from such a large tax bill when his company apparently continued to reward him and his family after the under-declarations were made. To many people, there are still un-answered questions
1. When did the under-declaration take place? The suggestion in the media is 2009 but VAT returns are generally made every two months, so when precisely?
2. Was it a single incidence or were there multiple under-declarations?
3. What salary, rewards and other benefits were paid to Mick Wallace, his family and associates between the under-declaration and October 2010 when Mick ‘fessed up?
4. Why did it take 15 months for the Revenue – between October 2010 and February 2012 – to examine what was presumably a straight-forward matter with a cooperative defaulter and make a settlement?
5. Since MJ Wallace was placed in receivership in November 2011 and Mick Wallace’s financial issues have been prominently reported in the media during 2011, why did the Revenue agree a settlement in February 2012, when there would have been strong suspicion that the settlement would not be discharged?
6. Why has the chairperson of the Revenue Commissioners, Jospehine Feehily – pictured below – not been summoned before an Oireachtas committee to answer for the behaviour of her organisation, either in general or specific terms? After all, she was summoned lickety-split in January 2012 after those letters were issued to pensioners advising them of claw-backs!
Yesterday’s publication of tax defaulters by the Revenue Commissioners contained the usual list of tax sinning and the resultant penalties which include imprisonment. To many people in this country, including on here, it is incredible that the Mick Wallace file has apparently been closed with an acceptance that the settlement cannot be paid. Mick Wallace has asked to address the Dail on his tax affairs and that request has been turned down, but in 2012 we are all media companies and Mick has his own website which remarkably has no statement whatsoever on the matter.