Belfast Telegraph

Target Express blew off course by perfect storm

By David Elliot

News that Fermanagh firm Target Express has fallen victim to the harsh economic climate is another blow for a region which has had to bear the brunt of the downturn.

While it might seem geography may have a hand to play in both this and the well-publicised problems which brought down the Quinn Group empire, the fact of the matter is there's little to blame for the company's demise other than a particularly prickly operating environment.

Target Express operate across the UK and Ireland so aren't confined to the vagaries of a particular area, but rather the overriding problems which delivery or haulage companies face from Coleraine to Cork, Land's End to John O'Groats.

Over the last few years they've been hit with the perfect storm of high fuel prices and dwindling demand for their services and by the looks of it, that's exactly what dragged Seamus McBrien's firm down.

It hasn't come as a surprise to anyone close to the industry who have seen other companies go the same way and who expect to see more follow suit in the months and years ahead.

It's ironic that although the economy has remained sluggish, a drop in the price of crude oil should be offering some respite to delivery companies but a comparable drop in prices has yet to filter through to the market for diesel and petrol.

Of course, these are the underlying reasons for Target Express's problems but it was the taxman who dealt the final blow.

The Republic's Revenue department wielded the axe in this particular case but it could just as easily have been the HMRC.

Pursuing unpaid tax bills through the courts is something which is happening more and more as the downturn wears on and unless there's a pick up in the economy, it's only going to get worse. The problem stems from the debilitating knock-on effects of increasingly delayed payments right across the business spectrum.

Payment terms which were once around 45 days have stretched out to 90 days and left suppliers struggling to meet their own payments.

As a result, monthly tax bills are the first to be ignored and it's not long before they build up to an unmanageble amount.

And while other creditors may offer a sympathetic ear, the revenue, both north and south of the border, is becoming increasingly inflexible.

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