The Revenue Commissioners have admitted the tax authorities were mistaken to assume householders were familiar with the details of payment methods used to pay the local property tax.
Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily yesterday conceded that it had not provided enough information in letters sent to 988,000 homes in recent weeks to file property tax returns for 2014.
Ms Feehily made the admission during an appearance before the Oireachtas Finance Committee to explain the controversy whereby people opting to pay next year’s property tax by debit or credit card will have the money deducted this month.
She said Revenue assumed householders had retained an information booklet on the tax sent to their homes earlier this year, which was why details had been “pared back to a minimum” in recent letters. It was a “mistaken assumption”, Ms Feehily said.
However, she was “intrigued” by the controversy on the basis that all seven payment options were successfully used during the first filing period for the tax earlier this year.
Ms Feehily said the issue about money being deducted immediately from debit and credit cards “hardly arose at all” back in May.
“We had no advance warning from the last campaign that these apparent misunderstandings might have existed.”
She said Revenue was now alerting people who filed online through a pop-up message that the money would be paid straight away.
However, she acknowledged that it would be better if people were advised that they might wish to select an alternative payment method. If people wanted to pay the property tax in a single lump sum after Jan 1, they could opt to pay by either a single debit authority or by cash through a service provider, said Ms Feehily.
She admitted Revenue should have made that fact more explicit, but stressed that many people wanted to pay the tax by such methods to get it “out of the way”.
Asked why Revenue could not facilitate payment after Jan 1 by debit and credits cards, Ms Feehily said there were serious concerns that storing such details would put Revenue in conflict with the Data Protection Commissioner.
More than half of all householders paid the property tax for 2013 by either debit or credit card even though such payments were deducted immediately and could have incurred a handling charge of up to 1.49%.
However, Ms Feehily stressed that Revenue did not receive any of these fees.
Almost 37% paid the tax by debit card with nearly 15% paying by credit card.
The committee heard the compliance rate for the tax due for 1.6m properties in 2013 has now risen to 91% — up 2% since July.
Around 205,000 householders have already filed returns with three weeks before the deadline representing a compliance rate of 35% for 2014 already.
Revenue said around €10m had been collected to date for the property tax due in 2014.
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