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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Second Stage (Continued)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Farrell: Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell] Fianna Fáil now claims it is the wrong time to introduce a property tax even though it committed the State to its introduction and the raising of €530 million before the end of next year. No doubt this is a duality of position for party political and personal gain on the part of the individual Members who continue to spout that line.

  I regret that so little time is being allocated to this debate.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Three hundred minutes.

Deputy Alan Farrell: Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell I do not understand why we are rushing through this debate to get the Bill passed before Christmas. The reckoning date is May and it is not being introduced until July. I find it very odd that we are rushing through another Bill.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews There is 1 minute and 38 seconds per Deputy.

Deputy Alan Farrell: Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell The charitable housing bodies have made a cogent argument. I am sure all Deputies have received and read the e-mails. I am not sure why we are taking money from local government to give to local government, which seems pointless. The income limits for exemptions, at €15,000 for an individual and €25,000 for a couple, are clearly too low. What about the couple living next door to me who have a €300,000 mortgage and a household income of €31,000? I have seen the payslips; they pay €1,700 a month for their mortgage and are in arrears. What about the countless other families? We are simply adding a debt burden to those individuals. The income limits should be reviewed.

I welcome the Minister's proposed exemption for those in pyrite-affected estates. He alluded to this earlier when he said it would be referred to in the finance Bill. I welcome that because approximately 12,500 people living in estates such as mine in north County Dublin and dozens of others across the State are affected. These estates will be examined and the detail will be most important.

During the debate some people have mentioned that those in negative equity are somehow being unfairly treated in the introduction of a property tax. Negative equity is irrelevant in terms of the ability of a person to pay. For those not selling their houses, negative equity is not an issue. They pay their mortgage and other bills as they normally would. The only time it will affect people is when they go to sell. Obviously, there are many choices to be made by people such as me, and doubtless countless others in this House and across the State, who are in negative equity.

I again register my annoyance at the completely insufficient time allocated to debate the Bill.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Hear, hear.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Many of us have concerns about the introduction of a tax such as this. Any extra tax that is introduced is bound to be unpopular, but the reality is that we have no other choice. I am disappointed that Deputy Ó Cuív walked out because he was a member of the Government that signed up to this. I understand new Fianna Fáil has to go about new ways of doing things. Shame on the old jokers who were in the previous Government who signed up to this and who now come in and change their story. The reality is-----

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The remarks being made by Deputy Hayes-----

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds Are totally apt.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl -----are so profound that they should be heard by some of his colleagues. Therefore, I call a quorum.

  Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I would call it populist politics. In opposition in 1977, Fianna Fáil promised to abolish rates because it wanted to be popular. Nothing has changed in those years since 1977. Fianna Fáil, again in opposition, is against the local property tax. We need to be open-minded and fair. We can do nothing other than introduce it and apply it as fairly as we can. The challenge facing the Government is to ensure the property tax is fair. I have come across many people with mortgage and other financial difficulties. In his opening statement this morning, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, said he was considering some of those people. I am not sure that enough of them are covered. In the next Stage of the Bill I will be asking that mortgage holders in financial difficulty be considered.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Kenny): Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny The Deputy has one minute left.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes Am I not allowed the time lost when the quorum was called?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Kenny): Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny We have a system that records the time and it is indicating that the Deputy has one minute left.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I beg the Acting Chairman to give me more time because I want to make a second point. When people are paying a local charge it should be transparent, such that the work that needs to be done in these areas is seen to be done. We should be able to look back on an annual basis and verify that local authorities are doing the work required, whether it be on roads, houses, footpaths or lights. Local area services need to improve now that we are introducing a tax. I call on the Government - whether it is the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government or the Minister for Finance - to ensure that services improve. People do not mind paying for something if the service is improved. I ask that such a provision be included and that we review it on an annual basis.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Is it any coincidence that Ireland is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a non-transaction-based property tax and is also a country with one of the biggest banking collapses, one of the biggest housing collapses and one of the biggest general government budget collapses in history? Not having such a tax in place or a broad enough tax base partly explains why these three traumas fell upon our country.

Many in the Opposition have said this tax will have an impact on family homes and on families who are already under terrible strain and difficulty. The Government has an obligation to provide public services to the same families. The Government must also provide for social welfare payments, schools, hospitals, teachers and nurses to the benefit of those families. It also provides money to ensure their local authorities are working properly. The Government continues to face an enormous gap between what we take in in taxes and what we spend. Until we get to the point at which the level of public services we want is paid for by the level of taxes we can bring in, those same families will continue to be under pressure, vulnerable and concerned for their future. That is why the principles underlying our tax system are so important and must be well thought out.


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