Lawyers and accounts face the taxman over late fee payments

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justiceMembers of professional bodies, such as accountants and lawyers, no longer will be able to delay paying annual fees and then wait to be taken to court.

Following a change in law, that has not been used for five years, the taxman is to issue enforcement proceedings against reticent payers from the professional classes, treating them like ordinary citizens who must pay up or risk losing cars, furniture and property.

Members of the Bar Association owe professional fees of around €7 million, members of the accountants’ professional body owe a further million and, as from this month, will receive demands to pay what is due without the nicety of arguing the matter in court.

The Public Associations Act, allowing tax office collection procedures, has been on the statute books since 2013 but only in October 2015 was it ,"possible to collect revenue for the Professional Orders through a tax enforcement process," and then, only if this was noted in the professional bodies’ own statutes.

In many cases, the professional bodies’ statutes did not mention enforcement action by the tax office, why would they, and so these professionals continues to bin annual membership demands, waiting for their day in court.

The president of the Union of Tax Workers already has said that he did not want to see the tax office transformed "into a debt collector" as "this distorts the purpose for which the tax authority exists.” he raised little complaint when ordered to collect unpaid toll fees from Portugal's drivers who had no legal recourse and had to pay up.

Paulo Ralha added that the measure also will have other impacts, as having his own workers carry out more tasks with the same number of people, will take resources from the real priorities of the Tax Authority and will lead to a fall in service levels.

For the professional associations, the new scheme has the advantage of saving money on taking their own members to court and will speed up the debt collection process.


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