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Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams]  The Taoiseach made his choice, he has decided what side he is on. His Government's vision is narrow and selfish; it is Fianna Fáil light. There is, however, an alternative vision. It is a vision of a new Ireland, a new republic that embraces all the citizens of this island, a republic that is democratic and inclusive and based on equality, freedom and social solidarity, a republic that shares its wealth more equitably, looks after its aged and young, provides full rights for people with disabilities, liberates women, and delivers the highest standards of public services. In the here and now, it is about providing a real effective and alternative Opposition to the Government and to Fianna Fáil. It is about articulating an economic approach that is realistic, viable and doable.

This morning Sinn Féin launched our campaign against the family home tax.  I am appealing to citizens and families to make a stand and resist the imposition of this unfair tax. I appeal to Teachtaí Dála and Seanadóirí in every party who still believe in the core values of republicanism, and Sinn Féin has no monopoly on this, and to those in this Oireachtas who believe in equality to vote against these regressive measures and the social welfare and other cuts.

This is a bankers' budget; it is a budget for the elites. It is a budget for austerity and against the interests of the majority of citizens. The Taoiseach and the leader of the Labour Party should be ashamed of it.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The Minister for Finance is a kindly, avuncular man who is popular on all sides of the House. It was surprising, therefore, in the last two days to hear him growling in interviews when he was asked about the property tax. He has said at least twice that it is being left to the Revenue Commissioners to collect it and that the Revenue Commissioners are very good at collecting taxes. I find those words ominous and somewhat threatening but above all they are an admission of the fact the property tax will be extraordinarily difficult to collect.

The reason for this is not that there will necessarily be, despite what the last speaker said, some sort of property strike on the same lines as the household charge strike, it is because some people simply cannot afford to pay it. I heard the Minister say the reason the Revenue Commissioners may use attachment orders to people's pay to collect this tax is because people cannot afford to pay. It would not be necessary otherwise. We are a tax compliant nation now. People will pay their taxes, particularly if they are self-assessed and if they can do so. It is obvious, however, in the Government's thinking that it has been forced to provide for the fact that people will not just be unwilling to pay, they will be unable to pay. This is a tyrannical attitude the Government should rethink.

The prospect of this tax being deducted from people's pay means one thing. If it is taken at source, there will be less bread on the table because that is where discretionary money goes. I appeal to the Taoiseach to think again about this and to be more sympathetic to middle Ireland, those people who have some earnings but who simply will not be able to meet this infliction on them. Middle Ireland is not a large body that can be placed in a box, but many people will not be able to pay what the Government is asking of them.

There has been a lot of talk about this budget broadening the base. It is a lovely phrase, it sounds right and Ministers can say that nearly every country in Europe has this and we must broaden the tax base. To me this is not broadening the base. Saying that people have property and it can therefore be taxed is not broadening the base. The source of this tax will be the same source for so many other taxes. In some ways this narrows the tax base because the people who will be forced to pay property tax are the same people who will be hit by PRSI, third level fees, reductions in child benefit and increases in DIRT and motor tax. The base does not broaden because the Government taxes another commodity.

There has been an attempt to confuse the issue by holding a flag and saying a tax will be imposed on mansions, which has very cleverly entered the lexicon already and is a brilliant piece of spin, but it does not deceive anyone because there are only a couple of thousand houses in that category. It will not raise much money. It might be a bone to be thrown to the Labour Party, but it is the thick middle that will suffer, some of whom will be unable to pay.

The proposal to increase capital gains tax, with which I have no problem, will generate very little revenue. Hands up anyone who has had a capital gain in recent years. It simply has not happened. It is something to throw to the Labour Party as an ideological bone, and it has succeeded.

Pensioners, property owners and families have been hit very hard by this. They are the same struggling people who are earning a little money but who increasingly cannot cope. These are the people Deputy Adams referred to as the coping classes. There will not be any coping classes if we continue to take so much out of their pay packets that they cannot pay. The property tax is built on a false assumption that people have an illiquid asset from which they can produce liquidity. It does not happen like that. There is no liquidity in owning a house. The Government is trying to squeeze apple juice from an orange. It cannot say that because a person owns a house, it will take cash from him.

I note what the Government has done in giving deferrals, but deferrals are a cop-out. They are not a waiver, they are not even a relief, and they simply create another debt. The Government is saying to those who cannot pay that they can defer but they must pay some time. There is no reason to believe those who defer today, who are mostly on very small incomes of €15,000 for a single person and €25,000 for a couple, will be able to pay tomorrow. Why would anyone believe that? It is a political cop-out to soften the blow, but at the end of the day it is to postpone evictions or something equally unpalatable. The idea those who defer because they cannot pay should then be loaded with a 4% interest rate is utterly unacceptable; it is penal. The Government is loading them with a debt they cannot pay and it is increasing it every year.

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