Varadkar hopes most will pay house tax

A Cabinet minister says he hopes most homeowners would pay the household charge by the end-of-March deadline but conceded that a number will not until the end of the year.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is the first minister to admit that the charge will not be paid by all homeowners as the deadline approaches in the next 10 days.

Yesterday, he called on homeowners to obey the law but also said he hoped those objecting to the levy would eventually sign up to the charge by the end of the year.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said he had already paid the charge himself in early January.

“I think we’re going to see a large number of people paying in the next week or two as the deadline approaches and those who don’t, the vast majority, will in the subsequent six months in order to avoid paying the fines.

“I’m conscious that the majority of people will have paid it before the exchequer returns have to be done at the end of the year.”

The latest figures yesterday revealed that 279,930 had paid the charge but this was still less than 20% of the estimated 1.6m homeowners targeted for the levy.

The minister added: “I understand that there are a lot of people who object to the charge and people have the right to object to something if they don’t agree with it. But people also do have a responsibility to obey the law and you can’t break the law one day and then expect the law to be there to protect you the next day.”

A number of Government TDs have suggested that the collection of the charge is a “shambles” and complained that homeowners, particularly the elderly, are unaware of how and when the charge must be paid.

Calls for post offices to be allowed to take payments have also been refused by the Department of the Environment, which is overseeing the levy.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: “The minister is still confident that the vast majority of people will register and pay the charge before the deadline and avoid the need to pay late fees.”

Despite this and a national campaign by Independent and United Left Alliance TDs opposed to the charge, Mr Varadkar said people could not one minute expect services from the state and the next go on to break the law.

“And you can’t refuse to pay your taxes one day and expect then to be able to draw on other people’s taxes when you need to avail of services the next day or later on in your life.”

It comes as members of trade unions stepped up their campaigns against the charge, with some threatening industrial action.

The Civil and Public Service Union will next month debate a motion to ballot 13,000 public sector workers for industrial action if there were any attempts to deduct the charge from their salaries.

The union itself has not called on members to boycott the levy.

However, the Unite trade union has urged its 50,000 members not to pay the charge which it described as “one more punch below the waist”.


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