Irish farmers take ministers to court

28 September 2001

Irish farmers take ministers to court

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

TWO senior Irish politicians have been taken to court by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) in a row over milk quota.

The complaint is that farm minister Joe Walsh and finance minister Charlie McCreevy failed to sign off tax-relief legislation agreed under the Programme of Prosperity and Fairness.

The legislation would allow tax relief claims on quota purchases.

This is despite there being a clause to this effect in the 2000 Finance Act, approved by the Dublin government.

ICMSA points out that over 22,000 farmers are now exposed to both a tax liability they werent expecting and to uncertainty in relation to tax planning.

“Over 100 million was invested last year by farmers in milk quotas on the basis that this income-tax relief would apply,” said ICMSA president, Pat ORourke.

“Having exhausted all political avenues, we have been forced to take court action.”

But the Department of Agriculture in Dublin explains that it cannot do so until the measure has been cleared by the state aids authorities in Brussels.

The department does, however, maintain it has every intention of honouring the commitment.

This does not satisfy the ICMSA, which objects to the commission having power to over-rule the national government on tax matters.

Irish Farmers Association milk chairman Padraig Walshe said he was confident that Brussels would eventually sanction the measure.

“This is a justifiable case of providing tax relief against an important producer expense.”

He advised milk producers who purchased milk quota since April 2000 to claim the tax relief anyway in their 2000/2001 accounts.

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