Inspector of Taxes v Kiernan

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeHenchy
Judgment Date04 December 1981
Neutral Citation1981 WJSC-SC 1728
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number[S.C. No. 1 of 1981]
Date04 December 1981
INSPECTOR OF TAXES v. KIERNAN
INSPECTOR OF TAXES
v.
PATRICK J. KIERNAN
High - 5 DEC. 1981

1981 WJSC-SC 1728

Finiay P

Henchy J.

Hederman J.

(1/1981)

THE SUPREME COURT

1

Henchyj. delivered the 4th December 1981 [Nem. Diss]

2

Patrick J. Kiernan ("the taxpayer") was assessed for income tax for the years 1965-6 and 1966-7 under r. 4 of Case III in Schedule D of the Income Tax Act, 1918; and for the year 1967-8 under s. 78 of the Income Tax Act, 1967. Those two statutory provisions are not materially different, so foreitheror both to apply to the taxpayer it would be necessary to show that he was in the years in question "a dealer in cattle or a dealer in or a seller of milk". The inspector of taxes held that he was "a dealer in cattle" because his principal farming activity on a holding of 27 acres was intensive pig production. In fact, when the appeal from theinspector's assessment came before the Circuit Court in November 1969 it was found that the taxpayer kept an average of 2,000 to 2,500 pigs on this small farm. He bred no pigs on the land. He simply bought them, fattened them and sold them. It was on that basis that the inspector assessed the taxpayer for the years in question as "a dealer incattle".

3

The taxpayer's appeal against the assessments came on in the Cavan Circuit Court in November 1969, when the Circuit Court Judge affirmed the assessments, holding that "cattle" included pigs and that the taxpayer was "a dealer in cattle". Dissatisfied with that ruling, the taxpayer required the Circuit Court Judge to state and sign a case stated for the opinion of the High Court. That case stated was not signed by the Circuit Court Judge until May 1980. There is no suggestion that any fault for this inordinate delay attached to the Circuit Court Judge. It is said that it was due to a disagreement between the parties as to the form of the questions that should be put in the case stated.Even so, that does not excuse a lapse of over ten years between the hearing in the Circuit Court and the signing of the case stated. This Court has time and again condemned such dilatoriness as being inimical to the due administration of justice (see, for example Brown v. Donegal County Council 1980 I.R. 132, 146). If the taxpayer was not liable for the assessments in question, elementary justice required that he should have been given a conclusive answer to that effect several years ago. If he was liable, the proper collection of the State's taxes demanded that these assessments should have been gathered in before years of rampant inflation were allowed to erode their worth. Moreover, it is not unlikely that the validity of similar assessments of other taxpayers depended on the outcome of this case. In other jurisdictions a case stated thus vitiated by delay would be struck out for want of prosecution. If in a future case the party with carriage of a case stated suffers such a fate in the High Court or inthis Court, because of such prolonged and inexcusable inertia, he will not be able to complain with any justification that ample warning has not been given of the possibility of such a dismiss.

4

In the High Court McWilliam J. ruled, inter alia, that "cattle" did not include pigs. If that ruling is correct it renders the other questions in the case stated redundant. I shall address myself, therefore, in the first place to that ruling.

5

There is no doubt that at certain stages of English usage and in certain statutory contexts "cattlerdquo; is a word wide enough in its express or implied signification to include pigs. That fact, however, does not lead us to a solution of the essential question before us, which is, when the legislature used the word "cattle" in the 1918 Act and again in the 1967 Act, without in either case giving it a definition, was it intended that the word should comprehend pigs? That the word has, or has beer held to have, that breadth of meaning in otherstatutes is not to the point. A word or expression in a given statute must be given meaning and scope according to its immediate context, in line with the scheme and purpose of the particular statutory pattern as a whole, and to an extent that will truly effectuate the particular legislation or a particular definition therein. For example, s. 1 of the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1854 defines "cattle", as including "horse, mare...

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