EU Tax on Turf – In the Bag, Rail or on the Flat

The cover of the magazine with a photograph of a turf-cutting scene on the cover
The cover of the magazine with a photograph of an Irish turf-cutting scene.

It took a while to get here even in this shrinking world of instant communications. A Ballymacelligott man and a former colleague of mine who now works in Strasburg kindly sent me a translated piece and a copy of the cover of an in-house magazine in which there’s a bit of an icy draught for those of us who burn turf for our home cooking and heat.

In the December issue of an internal magazine, one of its regular contributors wrote a piece in response to a n interview she did with a German member of the European Parliament. The piece was concentrated around innovative taxation measures on the EU wide basis.

One paragraph concerned a week of the MEP’s family break in South Kerry the previous month.

It was one of the most enjoyable few days they had spent anywhere as the locals played music and danced and sang in the hotel they stayed in for the duration of their break.

Voracious Open Fire

However, chilling for people who cut or burn turf as their main source of home heat, the MEP had a great chat with a couple of brothers who supplied the hotel with turf and timber for its voracious open fire in the huge bar.

The minister told the reporter that he had spotted an area of Irish life which had completely escaped income tax levies from Europe. He couldn’t understand how Irish colleagues in the parliament.

couldn’t explain under what category of taxation these turf producers fell. Or if people who burn turf actually pay tax for “the luxury” of it.

An Irish MEP told my colleague that because the German MEP saw this big open fire in the hotel and it was all part of the holiday ambience and the turfmen were so anxious to point out how the flames from the black sods were licking the chimney – he thought TAX that minute.

On the Flat, Bagged or by the Rail

“Because he had got chapter and verse from the brothers about buying it on the flat in the bog or having it bagged or railed and delivered he had everything categorised for tax purposes. The problem was compounded by the fact that the brothers were evasive when he asked them how they paid their taxes. If they held their ground and told him that their brother handled the tax or anything like that they’d have got clean away with it. But they f…ing legged it.

“He told us during a Christmas night out that he asked the brothers in which tax category they belonged to, they looked at one another and looked up at the television. The MEP was distracted for a couple of minutes by one of his children and when he looked around again the brothers had vanished and only the two drained glasses remained on the counter where they stood. Though he did see a humourous side to it – he got a greater kick out of the tax possibilities he had discovered – even on holiday,” said the Irish MEP.

Turf Burners Burnt

Worringly, the MEP is part of an ‘Union wide’ commission on taxation and it is likely that turf burners will be burnt as winter approaches.

“Why should a member state be allowed to produce a substance which undermined the price of oil and the tax take from it,” said the MEP in the course of the interview.

“It may not be the coming winter but several pieces of taxation legislation which are now enacted and having a bearing on EU affairs began in that very commission,” said my colleague – who spent many a day in the bog in his youth.