Publicans can write off the cost of 'booze buses'
PUBLICANS who have been affected by the introduction of random breath testing can write off against tax the costs of providing "booze buses".
It has emerged that the running costs of providing the free service to customers can be offset against tax.
And up to €24,000 of the purchase price of the vehicle can also be claimed back from the Revenue Commissioners, so long as it is exclusively used to provide the night-link service.
Fianna Fail TD Seamus Kirk, who obtained the information from Finance Minister Brian Cowen, said he saw no reason why publicans in rural towns could not club together to provide the service.
"It's not just in their own interest - they're doing their bit for road safety by keeping people who are frequenting their premises away from the steering wheel of a car."
Although random breath testing has been credited with reducing the number of deaths on the road, publicans in rural have expressed concern at the drop in customer numbers.
Mr Kirk said that the provision of courtesy transport by publicans could help them to secure the future of their business.
"I think the pub is an integral part of society in Ireland and I think particularly the pubs in the rural areas who are worst hit should sit down and see what the potential is for co-operation."
Although publicans can also use their bus for private purposes, they must specify how much they use it for transporting customers and can only claim the tax allowance on this amount.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland, which represents around 6,000 rural publicans, said it was not a viable option.
"It's not practical for any publican to purchase a second vehicle solely to transport their customers," said its president, Paul Stevenson.
The VFI had proposed that publicans should be able to get a reduced rate of VRT on "people carriers", which could then be used for both personal and business needs. However, this has not been approved by the Department of Finance.
Mr Stevenson said the Government's €500,000 pilot scheme to provide night-time bus services in four or five rural areas was only a drop in the ocean.
Since the introduction of random breath testing, people in rural areas were frightened to drive home with one bottle of beer taken, he said.
"There is little or no transport available in rural Ireland, so people have no alternative but to stay at home. Older people have no social outlet. Surely it's not the responsibility of the licensed trade to provide public transport for people?"