Hefty bill for penalties on second homes

Many owners of small shops, businesses and pubs have been shocked to find they owe large sums due to non-payment of the second home tax on their premises.

Co Roscommon Senator John Kelly has raised the plight of small business owners who found they owe up to €2,200, because of the accumulation of interest and penalties on unpaid €800 second home taxes.

Senator Kelly said owners were led to believe in 2009 that if they paid rates they would not have to pay the second home tax.

He said, “In most of these cases, access to the overhead accommodation is through the shop. How such a property can be considered a second property has me baffled. In many cases, most of the owners cannot afford to do up the properties to rent them.”

In a recent Senate debate, the Labour senator asked Environment Minister Phil Hogan for an interest and penalties amnesty for those who did not realise they were liable to the tax. He said county council staff had told many of these business people they were not liable.

Minister Phil Hogan said it could be interpreted that the property is not habitable, on the basis that access is only possible with the assistance of the owner of the property who happens to be a shopkeeper. “If that information was brought to the attention of the local manager the case could be made,” he said.

Since its introduction in 2009, the charge on non-principal private residences has raised €218m for local authorities. There is no obligation on local authorities to issue notifications or invoices; it is a matter for persons with a liability to pay each year before Jun 30. A €20 late fee is charged per month.

“If the property is not habitable, there is no liability, but this must be proved to the satisfaction of the local authority manager,” said Mr Hogan.

“All of the anomalies will not be resolved until we have a fully fledged property tax regime in place in 2013. I am not in a position to solve these difficulties in 2012 and must leave it in the care and management of the local authority manager to exercise common sense in dealing with genuine cases,” said Mr Hogan.


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