GREEN Minister Ciaran Cuffe has suggested the introduction of a “domestic charge” on houses of between €200 and €600 a year.
The Minister of State with special responsibility for Sustainable Transport, Planning and Heritage said the Government faced a “huge challenge” in trying to find another €3bn of cuts in the December Budget.
“An additional increase in income tax on working families would be hugely challenging, and perhaps we should instead be considering some kind of domestic charge, as we had prior to the ‘give-away’ budget of 1977,” he said.
“There’s no easy way to fill the gap, but an alternative to a hike in income tax rates on middle income earners would be to take the radical step of abolishing (or dramatically reducing) stamp duty on homes and introduce an annual levy based on the size of the house.”
Mr Cuffe suggested the charge could range from €200 to €600, depending on the size of the house.
“Maybe large homes could pay €600 a year, medium-sized homes €400 and smaller homes €200,” he wrote on his blog.
“How would you define this? A home over 200 sq m might be at the larger end of things, and under 100 sq m could be in the smaller category. It all could be done by self-assessment. If home-owners couldn’t pay, then the levy could remain as a charge on the home when it eventually changed hands.”
Mr Cuffe said such a charge could “raise the guts of several hundred million, and would be more equitable” than a rise in income tax. “The beauty of such a scheme is that it could be implemented quickly without a cumbersome state-led assessment of each property. Another advantage would be that it would allow people to move home when they wish without an excessive tax burden.”
Mr Cuffe stressed yesterday that the proposal was not formal Green Party policy. “I haven’t discussed it with my colleagues. We will need to have a debate internally. I’m simply throwing it out there.”
He acknowledged that charging for water was another “hot button issue”, but said a way had to be found to “concentrate” people’s minds on the need to conserve the resource.
“Currently in the greater Dublin area we’re about to take water from the Barrow River and there are plans afoot to tap the Shannon during the winter months and pump water to the east coast via a new midlands reservoir on Bord na Mona lands.
“Would charging for excessive water use obviate the need for this? I’m not sure, but we need to concentrate people’s minds on the need to use water resources wisely. If water meters can be fitted at a low enough cost, it might be a way of reducing demand and tackling those who waste water.”
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