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

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross] The Government has almost unprecedentedly managed to unite middle Ireland, people who are quite prosperous, people on middle incomes and people on lower incomes because this tax is a sledge-hammer which does not allow for anybody who is poor bar those earning up to approximately €15,000. It does not allow for any exceptions for negative equity, mortgage arrears or stamp duty and expects middle Ireland to accept it.

The Minister should realise this is possibly a tipping point where he will see resistance which he did not anticipate. There is nothing more guaranteed to garner and unite opposition to the Government than this particular tax. The Title to the Bill which we are debating summarises it perfectly. It is a lie. This is not a property tax or just a local tax. It is typical of those who draft Bills of this sort that they now produce syrupy words and show contempt for the electorate by expecting people to accept them as a description of what is inside the Bill. This is not what is in the Bill. The Bill is a tax on people who have a roof over their heads regardless of whether they are part of middle Ireland. This misjudgement of the mood is something the Government will live to regret. The Government knew perfectly well - this is what is so distressing - when it drafted the Bill and called in the ranks of the Revenue Commissioners that it could not collect it in the way it normally does. It is not a local property tax Bill because it will be levied by the people who are the most central to the collection of tax in the country, and not only the most efficient but the most feared. To ask the Revenue Commissioners is bringing in a dimension which states we know it cannot be collected in any other way.

I was not an advocate or supporter of the household charge resistance campaign but it was effective in one way because it showed there is a tipping point for a large number of people whereby they will no longer pay their tax or cannot do so. In this case it is worse because the Government realised people cannot afford to pay it so it introduced a tyrannical measure. The Government said these people cannot afford it but someone in the Department said it is a good bookkeeping exercise so it will be levied and taken from their pay. I do not want to be over-dramatic but I think it is true that those who have had it docked from their pay or social welfare will have to make hard choices. They must decide whether they can eat properly, what they will feed their children and whether they will live in the cold. The one thing that will happen is that they must pay their property tax. This is an unforgivable way to govern. It is inhuman. It is saying we are desperate and the people will be more desperate. It is taking orders from elsewhere and making the people suffer unbearable punishment and penalties.

I cannot understand why the Government did not realise the pain it is imposing on people with this. Everybody in their constituencies comes across this on a daily basis and it is extraordinary. The mention of property tax has that unifying effect which is anti-government and anti-establishment, and has the potential to garner a rebellion on the taxation issue which has not been seen here before.

It is disgraceful what is happening here today. I understand what the Minister said about bombast, but it was his Government which refused to give us time to discuss this on Second Stage. This is why the Minister is hearing Second Stage speeches now, because nobody had an opportunity to do so before. This is further evidence of the contempt with which measures of this importance are treated by the Government, because they are rammed through Parliament and then the Government says those taking advantage of the rules to get a debate going which was not evident on Second Stage are somehow committing oratorical sins. This is the only opportunity the Government is giving us to do so. We are sacrificing the amendments, which everybody in the House knows will be treated with contempt and will not be accepted, so we might as well take advantage of this period to say some of the things we were not able to say on Second Stage.

As several speakers have said, this is not a tax on property exclusively. It is a tax, as Deputy Doherty and other stated, on debt. Perhaps in his reply the Minister will be able to give us another example. Are overdrafts or fixed loans taxed? Is there anywhere else where debt is actually taxed? It is so punitive and thoughtless. A sledge-hammer was taken and it was decided to make very few exceptions.

The idea of a deferral is further hypocrisy and cruelty because it is saying to those who defer they cannot afford it, which they cannot as otherwise they would not defer. Only those in dire straits will be able to defer but in doing so they will incur another debt and be charged for it. They will be put in a spiral out of which they will no longer be able to escape. This is the thinking behind the Bill. I do not know which Ministers or members of the Government decided this but its insensitivity smacks to me of some very insensitive mandarins who decided €500 million is to be made in this way so it should be introduced because it makes good economic sense. It makes for human misery. This is the thinking behind the Bill.

It is fair to say those in Dublin, Cork and urban areas have not been treated fairly. It would be only reasonable to have a debate at least on this aspect.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We are discussing section 1.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I know and I am explaining why the Title is wrong and I will elaborate on it. Section 1 is about whether it is a local property Bill and I am addressing the issue.

The issue of whether people in Dublin and other urban areas or in areas where property is more valuable than an identical or similar property in a rural or another area is fair to debate and should be addressed. It seems very unfair that those with smaller earnings and larger borrowings but nominally more valuable houses should have to pay more in this tax than those with large earnings, identical houses and smaller borrowings. This is the situation. Many people in my constituency of Dublin South and elsewhere will suffer because the Minister, the Government and the Department of Finance are absolutely unprepared to make any reasonable concessions on this or on the question of stamp duty. Young people hit by cuts to child benefit, changes to PRSI and the other measures which have hit middle Ireland are not able to pay this tax and one reason for this is they have already paid tens of thousands of euro in stamp duty to the Government which they regard as a property tax.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I remind the House many speakers wish to contribute.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon I tried to speak last week on the Bill but unfortunately time did not allow so I was told I would have an opportunity to speak on Committee Stage.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It was guillotined.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish Deputy Bannon voted for the guillotine.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath That is why we are having Second Stage again.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon Deputy Nulty was correct when he spoke about the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil because we all know-----

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath This is Deputy Bannon's Bill and he cannot disown it.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon Deputy McGrath has a very short and blinkered memory.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath My memory is fine.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae There is nothing wrong with his head.

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