A NUMBER of Limerick farmers fear that they may go out of business after Revenue Commissioners issued tax demands to around 400 Kerry Co-op milk suppliers last week.
The tax bills which range from €15,000 to €30,000 were issues in respect of patronage shares issued to farmers who supply 1,000 gallons of milk to Kerry Co-op each year.
Farmers were asked to review their tax returns for the years 2011 to 2013 on the basis that they received the shares which should be factored in to income tax, USC and PRSI calculations.
Interest and penalties would also be liable for unpaid taxes and farmers were given 21 days to reply.
James O’Donnell, a county Limerick farmer who received notice from Revenue, says the tax implication amounted to an attack on the co-op movement.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) last week, Mr O’Donnell said if it was to be followed through on all co-op shares “it would be an attack on the entire co-operative movement and totally against the fundamentals of family farms.”
ICMSA President, John Comer, said that the organisation has been receiving many calls from hugely concerned Kerry suppliers regarding the “out of the blue” tax demand from the Revenue Commissioners.
He said the ICMSA was examining the position and would be seeking further clarification from Revenue.
Raising the matter in the Dáil last week, Limerick Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said that while he “fully respects the work of the Revenue and their independence, but the issue comes after farm families have suffered with milk and beef prices being hugely depressed”.
“This has been tremendously difficult for farmer families who were now being asked to find significant sums of money to pay to Revenue”.
He called on the Government to clarify the interpretational change in the tax code by Revenue and to clarify the reasons and timing for such a change.
“We need reassurance that the matter will be dealt with in a fair and proportionate manner,” he said.
It is understood that the Revenue Commissioners will be asked to clarify the issue before the Oireachtas Finance Committee later this week.