A man who failed to pay over €136,000 in VAT owed to Revenue over a period of five years has been jailed for two years.
John Fitzsimons (58), of Whitethorn Park, Palmerstown, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for failing to remit VAT payments amounting to approximately €136,000 between May 2011-May 2016 and failure to submit VAT and income tax return forms on various dates between 2001-2016.
Revenue Officer Emma Courtney told Gráinne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that in January 2016, Bunzl Ireland Ltd., a packaging company, alerted Revenue to invoices issued to the company by J Fitz Haulage Ltd.
Enquiries carried out by Revenue found that J Fitz Haulage – which was registered to Fitzsimons’ home address – had ceased to exist since 1999, and that the VAT number listed on invoices from the company was null and void.
The court heard that Fitzsimons had other dealings with the packaging firm under the guise of two other companies, CGC Associates and M and G Haulage.
Ms Courtney told the court that notice of a civil investigation into his tax affairs was issued to Fitzsimons on February 1st, 2016. A letter from CGC Associates returned to Revenue, dated February 26th, indicated a willingness to pay tax returns.
When no “progress” was made in Fitzsimons’ case, a district court warrant ordered the accused to produce documents pertaining to his personal bank account. Revenue officers found that over €800,000 had been paid into the account by Bunzl.
Fitzsimons was subsequently invited to a cautioned interview at Revenue’s Ashtown Gate offices on December 12th, 2018, where the defendant said he “wouldn’t know how” to complete a tax return form and said he was trying to keep his “head over water” when asked about his failure to pay VAT.
In letter submitted to the court by Fitzsimons, he expressed remorse for his actions, writing that he had “fallen so far behind” in his tax affairs, and felt he was “trapped in a deep hole”.
Fitzsimons has no previous convictions.
James Dwyer SC, defending, said that his client understands that “the buck stops with him” when it comes to his finances, and that he has taken steps to make “restitutions”.
Defence counsel asked Judge Martin Nolan to consider the accused man’s ailing health, and his early plea before sentencing.
Judge Nolan, handing down sentencing, said that although Fitzsimons was “hard-working” and a “very good community man”, his actions had resulted in “substantial losses to the Revenue”.
Given that it was unlikely nothing “close to what’s owed” would be returned to Revenue, Judge Nolan said that a custodial sentence was necessary.
Judge Nolan sentenced Fitzsimons to two years imprisonment. “In my view, I’m being extremely lenient,” he said.