Case Notes

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A recent Irish tax case, Revenue Commissioners v Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word ,
concerned exemption from Irish income tax on a nursing home in Ireland owned and run by an
order of nuns with their headquarters in the US. In its judgment delivered on 11 February 1998,
the High Court (Mr. Justice Geoghegan) agreed with the principle established in the UK case of
Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc. v Commissioners of Inland Revenue [1955] (36 Tax
Cases 126) that tax exemptions do not apply to fore ign charities. Accordingly, the Irish legislation
exempting charities from income tax is limited to charities “established” in Ireland.
However, the judge distinguished the Dreyfus case from the instant case, on the grounds that the
order of nuns had a place of business in Ireland an d that the exemption from Irish taxation was
being claimed only in relation to the foreign charity’s activities in Ireland. The charity could
therefore be said to be established in Ireland a nd entitled to exemption from income tax.
Case 98042 – Mr. John Burns of The Sunday Times newspaper and the Office of the
Revenue Commissioners

A recent case on the freedom of information concerned the right to obtain the names of
organizations in Ireland that had been granted ta x exemption on the basis of their charitable
status. The tax authority initially refused the r equest by a journalist on the grounds that the
information had been supplied to it in confidence. Subsequently, following negotiations with the
Office of the Information Commissioner, the tax authority agreed to release the names of all those
charities that did not object. The Commissioner then reviewed the cases of the 127 charities that
had refused to consent unconditionally to the release of the information. On 8 July 1999 the
Commissioner annulled the decision of the tax autho rity and directed that the names of all but
one of the charities that had refu sed consent should be disclosed.

In the case of the single charity whose name was ordered to be withheld from disclosure, the
Commissioner found that the public interest in t he disclosure of the name of the charity did not
outweigh the public interest in ensuring that the charity can meet its obj ectives. Therefore the
Commissioner accepted that the one of the statut ory grounds (section 27 (1) (c) of the Freedom
of Information Act 1997) for refusing to disclose in formation was satisfied, namely that disclosure
could prejudice the conduct or outcome of cont ractual or other negotiations of the charity

In the other cases the Commissioner found that the disclosure of the names of the charities did
not involve the disclosure of any other information that was not publicly available, and that such
disclosure would not prejudice the enforce ment or administration of the tax law.