89% fall in homes eligible for tax waiver

Just 11% of the homes which had been eligible for an exemption from the household charge due to unfinished estates will be exempt from the upcoming local property tax.

The Government has confirmed that while the household charge waiver list contained some 1,322 developments and approximately 43,000 households, the waiver from payment of the property tax will only apply to 421 developments, or approximately 5,100 households.

The Department of the Environment said the huge drop was down to two factors.

Firstly, the latest poll of local authorities found that 1,203 developments which had been included in the 2011 survey could be removed as they were either “substantially complete” or development had never commenced. It said many of the substantially complete developments could progress to being taken in charge by local authorities. The department said that, since 2010, the number of such developments has fallen 37% to 1,770.

The second major reason for the decline in waivers was a tightening of the criteria for eligibility.

The waiver list for the household charge was compiled using the results of the 2011 National Housing Development Survey undertaken by councils across the country. The 2012 survey for the property tax was conducted last summer “on the basis of an agreed nationally consistent set of criteria, mapping and survey methodology”. The department said that methodology was “significantly refined to address anomalies that arose in the 2011 survey”.

One source said there had been a “scatter-gun” approach to the first survey, but this time there had been more scope to refine the process more thoroughly. In the first survey, even on whole estates where only one or two houses were unfinished, the whole estates were benefiting from the waiver.

However, this time, only the actual households directly affected by the unfinished elements are exempt.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the number of properties eligible for a waiver “reflects the progress made in tackling unfinished housing developments, as well as the more objective approach applied to the 2012 national housing development survey.”

Mr Hogan urged people not to assume that just because they were eligible for a waiver from the household charge they will be eligible again for the local property tax.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen questioned the withdrawal of homes from the waiver which, in the words of the department, “could progress to be taken in charge by local authorities”.

Mr Cowen said they should remain exempt until they had been fully taken in charge by the local authority and until they adhered to all the terms and conditions which were contained in their original planning permission.


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