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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage

SECTION 1

Acting Chairman (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are out of order and may not be moved. Deputies may speak on the section but not on the amendments.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins I raise a point of order. Standing Orders state that every amendment must be relevant to the motion to which it is proposed and must be directed to omitting, adding or substituting words. It is also stated in Standing Orders that no amendment which is equivalent to a direct negative shall be accepted. The amendment in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett and in my name, suggesting a realistic and truthful name for this so-called local property tax to the effect that it be called the bondholders' and bankers' bailout tax, does just that. It suggests a different name for the Bill. Why is it ruled out of order?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett May I elaborate Deputy Higgins's point? The amendments are to section 1, which is the definitions section of the Bill. The basis of my amendment is that we believe the Title we propose is, objectively, a more accurate description of the Bill. I do not see how it could possibly be out of order. In a telephone call from the Department, we were told the amendment was declaratory in nature. It is not. It simply says we believe the Title we propose is a better, more appropriate and more accurate name for the Bill. It tells us more correctly what the Bill is and what is in it.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne The amendments have been ruled out or order. Therefore, we need to proceed.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty A number of amendments have been ruled out of order, and I am not challenging the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle in that regard. There is, however, a need for clarification for future legislation. This is not a property tax. The Minister knows what property is. It is not just a home. It also includes other assets, such as stocks and shares, gold, savings and so on. The Bill proposes a home tax and that would be the most apt Title for the Bill.

Amendment No. 1, which has also been ruled out of order, gives the Government the opportunity to look at other revenue collecting possibilities by imposing a real property tax. If we are debating a property tax Bill, as the Title of the Bill suggests, amendment No. 1, submitted in my name, provides for a real property tax that looks at the net assets of individuals.

As we go through the Bill we will see that we are, in many instances, taxing debt. Where people have mortgages that are in excess of the value of their family home, we are taxing a liability or taxing debt. That is what the Government intends to bring through.

There are 88 amendments before the House and we have three hours to debate Committee Stage, which gives us less than two minutes per amendment. Deputies also have a democratic right to call votes, which will eat into that time. I know it is embarrassing for the Minister for Finance, given the commitment made by him and all Government party Deputies, before they came into office, to oppose a recurring residential property tax. It is appalling that we are in this situation.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I must stop you there, Deputy. There is no problem in Deputies speaking on the section. The first three amendments have been ruled out of order and I have given Members the reason for that. If the House wishes to debate the section, you may speak first, Deputy Doherty, followed by Deputy Catherine Murphy. Minister, did you wish to speak?

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I raise a point of order. I think I should have read the financial resolution before the debate began.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne The resolution was read after the Order of Business by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

  Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, not moved.

  Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Section 1 deals with when the Act will come into operation and the Title of the Act, which deems it a local property tax. That is an offence to what is contained in the legislation because it is not a local property tax. Property is far more than a family home. If the Government really wanted to introduce an assets tax or property tax, it would have proposed something similar to what I proposed in amendment No. 1.

In their election manifestos, every Deputy from Fine Gael and the Labour Party, including the Minister for Finance, told the electorate they were opposed to an annual recurring residential property tax. The Bill is cited as the Finance (Local Property Tax). This tax is recurring and is in complete breach of the Government's mandate. This is another broken promise in relation to that mandate.

This will be a tax on debt. This is not a tax on property. It is a tax on people's mortgage liabilities and on negative equity. People paid thousands, if not tens of thousands, of euro in stamp duty. No party has a mandate to bring forward the type of taxation measure that is before us today. The only party that went to the electorate with a proposal to introduce a recurring property tax was Fianna Fáil. That was different in nature, being a site value tax. This tax has no mandate from the public and should not be brought before us today.

It is embarrassing for the Minister, given the commitments he gave when he walked the highways and byways telling people there would not be an annual recurring residential property tax. It is an offence to pretend this is a property tax that, somehow, widens the tax base. The Government is dipping its hands into the pockets of struggling home owners. We know from last week's report that one in four home owners has a difficulty paying their mortgage and is in mortgage distress. These are the people into whose pockets the Government intends to dip its hand next July and who will be asked to pay for a home on which they cannot even pay the mortgage to keep a roof over their heads.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I have a problem with the Title of the Bill on a number of grounds. First, I cannot figure out what piece of property someone owns if they are in negative equity. If a person's income is below a certain threshold and the tax is deferred, the liability can follow that person around, even after their house has been repossessed. Second, the word "local" is a misnomer. Only 65% of the revenue raised will be spent locally. The other 35% could be redistributed in a very unfair way.

The Title is important. It is wrong to call this a Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill.


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