Five solicitors based in Cork City have agreed to give free legal advice to people facing possible court action for non-payment of the controversial household tax.
The news comes as authorities prepare to issue warning letters to tens of thousands of householders who have avoided paying the tax since the March deadline.
Those letters are expected to issue from next month.
The solicitors volunteered their services in recent weeks after an appeal was issued by the Cork Campaign Against Household Charges.
Other anti-household tax campaign groups around the country have issued similar appeals.
Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry, a leading figure in the Cork and national campaigns, said he hoped more solicitors would come forward in the coming months.
“We put out an appeal to solicitors and legal people to volunteer to donate their services to the campaign to assist ordinary householders, if and when they are dragged before the courts.
“We are confident that we will have a strong legal team by autumn and we will provide advice and support for anyone who is dragged in front of the courts.”
The most recent figures from the Local Government Management Agency show that the owners of 915,408 properties have paid the €100 charge, and that €91,944,919 has been collected.
A total of 17,700 applications are awaiting resolution of queries, with a further 17,167 properties registered for a waiver, a LGMA spokesperson said. This gives a total of 950,275 registered properties — a compliance rate of about 58%.
Just over €53m was collected through online credit card payments.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan indicated last week that he wanted local authorities to pursue those who have yet to pay.
“The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for a number of offences related to the household charge,” said the LGMA spokesperson.
“The act provides for fines and other sanctions for persons found guilty of offences.
“A local authority is the only body who has the power under the legislation to bring proceedings for an offence.”
The spokesperson said those who had not paid would be written to and given the opportunity to pay before any proceedings began.
“We anticipate the first letters of reminders will be sent to the first group of people as identified in the first data match in July,” said the spokesperson.
Households paying the charge after the Mar 31 deadline face charges of 1% interest each month, as well as flat fees of €10 for paying it within three months of the deadline. Households paying now are therefore liable for a charge of €111 rather than €100.
Mr Barry said the anti-household tax campaign could not give an absolute guarantee that everyone who was brought to court would have a solicitor representing them in court.
“We will provide that form of legal support for as many people as we can.”
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