Young eager readers turn over a new leaf

Young readers are turning over a new leaf every day, with children’s book sales on the rise.

The country’s 510,000 primary pupils have each been given a token to pick up any one of nine titles written to celebrate World Book Day in Ireland yesterday. And to mark the occasion, the €1.50 token can alternatively be used until Mar 24 towards any book or audio book costing €3.99 or more at participating bookshops.

While audiobooks are making a mark on the children’s market, Irish booksellers say the printed versions are certainly not going out of fashion.

“Technology has a place in our children’s lives but when it comes to a bedtime story, there’s nothing better than a child physically picking their favourite book and saying, ‘this one, Daddy’,” said Bob Johnston, spokesperson for World Book Day in Ireland.

“Physical children’s books accounted for nearly 24% of all book sales in Ireland last year, up from 22% in 2011, and seem to be holding up well in these recessionary times. Parents obviously still see the value they have to offer for their children,” he said.

Although international research in 2009 found that our teenagers, and boys in particular, are less likely to want a book as a present, more recent studies are more enc-ouraging. With fourth-class pupils here among the strongest readers globally according to the results out before Christmas, the Department of Education’s literacy and numeracy strategy aims to boost reading levels further among our youngsters.

Those efforts might be helped by events yesterday at schools, libraries, and bookshops nationwide, where children dressed as their favourite characters, and were treated to readings by top authors.

Half of property tax estimates ‘could be wrong’

By Seán McCárthaigh

Up to half of the estimates for the controversial property tax being sent out to over 1.6m households from Monday could be inaccurate, the Revenue Commissioners have admitted.

Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily stressed the importance of the self-assessment nature of the tax after acknowledging that more than 800,000 estimates could place a wrong value on a property, with a consequent impact on the amount of tax owed.

She also warned that landlords who have not registered their rental properties with the Private Residential Tenancies Board will be identified by the tax. She said such landlords could also expect to be pursued for tax on any undeclared rental income in the past.

Property owners are being asked to submit their own estimate based on the value of their property on May 1 next to Revenue by a deadline of May 7 for postal users and May 28 for online users.

They are also asked to nominate one of six payment methods, while certain properties are exempt from the tax and some owners in financial difficulty can apply to defer payment.

Ms Feehily said Revenue had predicted that between 20% and 25% of their initial estimates would undervalue a property, with a similar percentage of residential homes being overvalued.

The tax authorities are calculating “general estimates” based on the average indicative values of properties in 3,400 electoral areas using criteria such as whether a building is detached or terraced and built either before or after 2000.

“Revenue is not valuing individual properties. We don’t know your house — what size it is or what condition it is in,” said Ms Feehily. She added that tax officials would have no issue with estimates made “in good faith” by owners.

She said it was legitimate to allow for factors like the propensity of flooding and exposure to radon gas in calculating property values.

However, Revenue will pursue individuals for the amount of the tax estimate if no file is returned. The tax authorities have been given powers to collect the tax directly from a person’s salary, pension or bank account.

Ms Feehily said it was crucial that anyone who is not liable for the tax should inform the Revenue as to who the actual owner of the property is.

An interactive guide providing average values for different property types will be available on the Revenue website from next Sunday.


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