Fianna Fáil threatened to withdraw support for Government over Property Tax

Fianna Fáil threatened to withdraw support for Government over Property Tax

Fianna Fáil has threatened to withdraw its support for the Government unless it ensures large increases in Local Property Tax (LPT) bills are stopped.

The opposition party accused the Government of "playing games" over property tax, which is to be reviewed later this year, and called for it to publish its plans as soon as possible

Local property tax (LPT) is based on the market value of a house, but the rapid increase in prices has prompted concerns about the hikes in tax homeowners will have to pay.

In 2015, the LPT being paid by homeowners was frozen until 2019.

A review of the system is underway and the Government says it is due to report in the first quarter of this year.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: “Legislation will be required this year and this is an issue which should not be allowed to gather dust. Local authorities will be worried about their funding. If we have to press the issue, we will press the issue. We are setting out our position.”

Mr McGrath accused the Government of “playing games” with the issue, increasing public concern.

"We have the spectre at the moment of Government ministers publicly calling for changes that they themselves are responsible for bringing about. We're seeing Shane Ross saying one thing, Joespha Madigan saying another thing," he said.

The Government need to be coherent on this issue and agree on a collective position. we're just seeing games at the minute.

The party's housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien called on the Government to be upfront about possible increases.

"This review should have been published already. Fine Gael has been playing games with this, people are unsure where they stand - both local authorities and homeowners. I get a sense that they (Fine Gael) are trying to time this in advance of a local and European election to say, 'Aren't we great? We're not increasing the property tax'.

"People see through these games. It's more of the spin and substance piece. Publish the report, let the Dáil debate it, and let's move on and get certainty around the LPT."

In the Dáil, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also called on the Government to clarify its position as soon as possible arguing that a site value tax system is preferable to the current model, which is based on property prices.

“What exactly is the Government planning to do, legislatively or otherwise, on property tax? Will the Taoiseach consider undoing the mistake made six or seven years ago and introducing a site value tax rather than the formal property tax, which seems to be being undone by his own Cabinet before our eyes?” he asked.

In response, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe tried to reassure the public that any changes to the LPT will be "affordable and predictable".

He added that no one will have to pay this year, with the first bill due early next year.

"The intention is not to increase the yield from the local property tax, so we will have to make changes in the band and in the rate as well so people see no increase, or perhaps a modest increase or decrease in 2020," he said.

“I can assure the Deputy that all members of the Cabinet are eager to come up with a regime that continues to be fair to everybody,” he said.

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