Revenue chiefs to be hauled up over tax chaos

Revenue chiefs are to be hauled before an Oireachtas watchdog after early property tax demands provoked widespread public confusion and Cabinet chaos over how to deal with it.

The Cabinet will also discuss the fallout from the PR disaster tomorrow with the Coalition openly split after Taoiseach Enda Kenny pointedly refused to back up Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s call for a review of the November deadline.

Revenue Commissioners chairwoman Josephine Feehily is to be quizzed on the payments mess by the Oireachtas finance committee.

Confusion was sparked after Revenue issued 960,000 letters to homeowners telling them they must pay their property tax bill for 2014 by the end of this month if they plan to use debit card, credit card, or cheque.

As Transport Minister Leo Varadkar admitted that he himself was confused by the letter and unable to explain it to worried constituents, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore urged Revenue to reconsider the deadline, insisting a 2014 tax should not be paid until 2014.

But this push was publicly undermined by Mr Kenny who used a Fine Gael gala dinner to distance himself from the Labour leader’s stance, and stress the independence of Revenue.

“The Government decide what policy is, the Revenue Commissioners implement and enforce that policy,” Mr Kenny said.

As the property tax was not introduced until July this year, January will trigger the first full-year payments, which are expected to average out at about €300 for the 1.6m households hit by the levy in the Government drive to raise €500m in extra revenues next year.

Confusion was sparked by the full-year debit or credit card option — meaning the 2014 total will be paid immediately by householders.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton criticised Revenue, saying it needed to improve its communications skills as the letter had been too “technical” in tone.

While Revenue refused to respond to her comments, Socialist TD Joe Higgins blamed the way legislation was “lashed” through the Dáil for the confusion.

Finance committee chairperson Ciarán Lynch said Revenue chiefs needed to explain what the situation was after days of concern and confusion.

“The concerns that I have heard expressed by the public over the last couple of weeks are not an issue of compliancy, but an issue of a requirement for good customer services, in which people who wish to pay the tax want to make the payment when the payment falls due,” Mr Lynch said.

In a newspaper article over the weekend, Vivienne Dempsey, a local property tax project manager with Revenue, said households were just being asked to select a payment method by Nov 27. She said the tax was not due until Jan 1.

She said if householders did opt to pay by credit or debit card, the money would be debited on the day the transaction is made.

Deadlines

Anyone who paid the household charge in full this year has to confirm payment method for 2014 by Nov 27, if online. If doing so by paper, the deadline is Nov 7.

Payment options:

* Direct debits; or salary, pension, social welfare deductions. Payments from Jan 15 on direct debits; from first monthly payment date on salary/ pension/welfare.

* Debit/credit card. Payment must be made by Nov 27. Full amount on the day of transaction.

* Postal order/cheque. Cheques or postal orders for full amounts can be paid up to Jan 1.

* Monthly or weekly payments. Can be made via An Post; Payzone; Omnivend from Jan 1.

* Cash or card. Payment in full by January 1 via An Post, Payzone or Omnivend.

* Single debit authority.Pay in full. Will be debited on Mar 21.

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