Labour hopes for tax date rethink

Homeowners should be able to pay the property tax by credit card in 2014 — and not have to do so later this month — without any need to change the law, according to the Labour Party.

The junior coalition party is holding out hope that the Revenue Commissioners will agree to changes when their chairwoman, Josephine Feehily, appears before the Oireachtas finance committee tomorrow

If not, the tánaiste will consider raising it again at next week’s Cabinet meeting, meaning coalition tensions over the issue could run into a third week.

Revenue is to ramp up its communication efforts to clear up some of the confusion that erupted by letters issued to almost 1m homeowners last week.

People were asked to select their payment methods by Nov 27, and those choosing debit or credit cards were told they must pay by this date — because Revenue could not legally store their card details until 2014.

Eamon Gilmore’s demands to change the payment date were rejected by Michael Noonan, the finance minister, at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

However, a spokesperson for the Labour Party leader said there was “still a concern that a significant number of people will pay in 2013 for a tax that is not legally due until the first of January and that’s not a satisfactory situation”.

Mr Gilmore’s spokesman said last night that this was not a satisfactory situation and “we will find out on Thursday if there is any scope for change”.

Fianna Fáil said if Labour believed the property tax payment methods were wrong, it should table an amendment to the relevant legislation to ensure nobody is required to pay this year.

But Labour believes it is technically possible — without changing the law — to allow people to state now that they will pay by credit card, but not give card details or pay until January.

Fine Gael does not see any need to change the rules, arguing that there are six other methods of paying the tax so no one is required to pay it until Mar 2014.

“There is no legal obligation, whatsoever — legal or otherwise — upon people to pay the 2014 tax in the remaining weeks of this year, 2013,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil.

He also rejected claims by Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, that requiring certain payments before Christmas would slow consumer spending and damage the domestic economy.

“All of these people, and retailers, who are saying you are going to take serious money out of the economy before Christmas, this is not required at all,” said Mr Kenny. Nobody is required to pay the property tax before Christmas.”

Mr Martin also told the Dáil there was an “incoherence at the heart of Government” on the issue.

Some 50,000 households have responded to tell Revenue how they intend to make the payment.

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