Daylight robbery: Portugal set to levy tax on sunshine

In Portugal they call it ‘um ruobo’ or ‘daylight robbery’ and it is little wonder, as the government is proposing to tax something the country has in abundance — sunshine. 

The amount of exposure to the sun and beautiful views are the focus of a new council tax which authorities in Portugal say is aimed at making the country more “socially just”.

It is already about as popular as water charges in Ireland. While we do not enjoy almost endless sunshine, the Portuguese tax is akin to a window tax introduced here and in England 300 years ago, inspiring the term ‘daylight robbery’.

According to Law Decree 41 of 2016, published last week, a good view and a south-facing house could see homeowners face substantial increases in their council tax bills, the English-language Portugal News reports. Homes with nice views and which maximise solar exposure could be subject to an increase in council tax rates of up to 20%.

Finance minister Fernando Rocha Andrade said the revision will tax people according to the homes and luxuries they enjoy.

“Our objective is firstly to introduce greater fiscal equity”, he said, as the new tax was announced.

“This will allow us to reflect, with greater accuracy, the effective variations in current house prices.”

Portuguese home-owners and developers are bemused by the decision as apartment blocks built in Portugal over the last ten years face south to maximize solar gain for energy reasons.

“Now we are going to be penalised for doing what we thought was the right thing” said property surveyor, Joao Fonseca.

The Association of Lisbon Homeowners (ALP) also criticised the tax: “These are people’s homes and many of them could now face not being able to pay these new taxes,” said ALP president, Luis Menezes Leitao, stressing that homeowners with large mortgages initially had not counted on any increases in council taxes.

There is no indication that the Irish Government might consider a sun tax to replace water charges, but a rain tax may not be out of the question. It is already happening in Italy and in some US states. Residents in Ravenna, in Italy’s wettest region, have to pay an extra 3% on their water bills to maintain drainage systems as heavy rain causes severe damage.

The people of Valentia island in Kerry must be bricking it. Last Tuesday, the Co Kerry island’s observatory recorded its highest level of rainfall on a single day since records began there over 150 years ago. 105.5mm of rain fell in just 24 hours. That kind of deluge could turn rainfall into a windfall for the Government.


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