Varadkar: Property tax ill-timed

Leo Varadkar has admitted that it is the worst timefor the Government to introduce a property tax amid calls for the new levy to be postponed.

But the transport minister said the tax, to be rolled out next year, would be overseen by Revenue, who knew who people were, where they lived and would be effective at collecting it.

Speaking on RTÉ’s John Murray Show, he said the Thornhill report on the tax, which outlines options for the Government, had not been shared at Cabinet yet.

He said the tax would be implemented by the middle of next year, adding: “A lot of people are in negative equity. It is something that we need to do and pretty much every country in the western world has a property tax to fund local services. We’re going to have to have one too, even though it is coming at the worst possible time.”

He said that taking taxes at source, such as income tax and Vat, was the best way to collect charges.

The Government has already admitted that PAYE workers will have the tax deducted directly from their pay packets.

This follows a submission to Revenue from the Local Government Management Agency and recommendations to deduct it that way.

Mr Varadkar said Revenue would be much better at collecting the charge. The LGMA has been able at this stage to bring in payments from around one million property owners. But another 600,000 have yet to voluntarily sign up to the property charge.

“The Revenue Commissioners, they know who you are and they know where you live so they’ll be much more effective at collecting it than a voluntary system or local authorities,” he added.

The minister also admitted that his constituents in Dublin City West would not like the new tax.

His comments came as Fianna Fáil called for a delay in its introduction.

Seanad party leader Darragh O’Brien said the Government’s handling of it was a fiasco and very little was organised before Revenue begin collecting the charge next year. The ongoing mortgage crisis coupled with increasing debt for consumers signalled a bad time for the roll-out of the tax, he argued.

“When 40% of the country cannot and will not pay €100, how many of them are likely to agree to €800 or €900? We have a huge section of the population in this country on middle incomes who are squeezed to breaking point and something has got to give.”

Earlier, Fine Gael backbencher Andrew Doyle said that council tenants would be asked to pay the property tax next year.

The Wicklow TD suggested to East Coast FM that the tax could be extended to people renting from local authorities — despite the fact that they do not own their own homes — and that “there would be a minimum payment for all”.

Revenue refused to comment on when the tax would begin or how properties would be valued. It added: “The Government decision that Revenue will administer this new tax has just been made and we are now beginning to plan for its introduction.”


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