A 53-year-old former company director has been given a three-year prison sentence for filing incorrect VAT returns to the Revenue Commissioners over an 18-month period.

Limerick Circuit Court heard today that the State was at a loss of almost €188,000 as a result of the actions of Sean Hartigan between 2005 and 2007.

Hartigan was a director of the Prestige Recycling company, which provided segregation and compacting services to other companies. The firm is now in liquidation but had an address at North Circular Road in Limerick.

Hartigan pleaded guilty to six charges under the Taxes Consolidation Act.

The court heard he wilfully submitted incorrect VAT returns to Revenue on a series of dates between September 2005 and February 2007.

He did this by obtaining VAT from his suppliers and not crediting this to Revenue. He also submitted VAT returns with Nil on them, when this was incorrect.

The court heard that Hartigan made an early plea to the charges and did not attempt to hide behind his company or his bookkeeper.

It also heard that he had slipped into criminal conduct of which he was ashamed. The loss to the State did not reflect the precise personal gain to him.

The court was told Hartigan’s marriage had broken down, he had fought addiction and that he was now a man of no means living in west Clare on social welfare.

Judge Carol Moran said this was a serious effort to defraud the Revenue and not to punish culprits such as this was unfair to compliant taxpayers.

The judge said it undermined the social solidarity of society when the courts and the State are not seen to punish people who are not compliant, be it tax evasion or social welfare fraud.

He imposed a three-year sentence.