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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae] The Minister made a mock and a skit out of what the Revenue Commissioners is for. We are tax compliant and I am tax compliant. I have been dealing with the Revenue Commissioners for a long time and I know what it is like. People have other worries, such as raising young families and struggling in an ever-increasing spiral of debt, as was pointed out in Deputy Joe Higgins's example. That young couple will face paying a massive mortgage into their 70s. That is not living at all; it is suffering. When Deputy Noonan became the Minister of Finance and when Deputy Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, we were hoping they would acknowledge those people. I certainly thought the Minister for Finance would mention them when he made his contribution. I would like to hear the Minister speak about that group of people. He should not ignore them again.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I also support the amendment and many others that we will not have an opportunity to address. I do not accept it is a good idea to introduce a property tax. A property tax seems like a good idea in normal times but these are not normal times. The conditions are too poor at present. Aside from mortgage problems, negative equity is a factor and, if people are realistic, they do not own the properties. The banks own the properties and people will pay tax on them as well as arrears if they want to remain in them.

Crazy amounts of stamp duty were paid. We say that everyone in Europe pays house tax but they did not pay stamp duty on primary residences. It is unheard of in Europe. If one purchased a house in 2000 and paid €200,000, stamp duty at 6% amounts to €12,000 and, over the course of a 25-year mortgage, it becomes €25,000. This amounts to €1,000 a year and it is not as if people are not paying house tax if they are paying €1,000 a year through the mortgage.

There is a notion that the local authorities will pay the tax on social housing but the local authorities are all broke. How will they get the money? They will get money from the clients and push it onto clients. Likewise, many people purchased houses under affordable housing schemes in the past ten or 12 years. It seemed a good idea at the time because it did not seem quite so expensive. However, repayments on affordable housing have become unaffordable. I sold properties to people who purchased them under Part V through the council. They paid between €220,000 and €240,000 for two-bedroom apartments. They seemed like a bargain at the time because the full price was much more. The families qualified for the scheme because they could not afford the full price. The figure they paid became insurmountable and they will be asked to pay property tax as well.

Other speakers mentioned pyrite. Aside from properties identified as being affected by pyrite, the State has an obligation to ascertain whether a property is affected by pyrite. Many people are living in limbo, wondering whether they have pyrite, and the State has an obligation to test the houses and give them a clean bill of health or deal with the problem if it exists. The problem is not of the making of the person who bought the property.

With regard to deferrals, the Minister makes the point that it is not a massive amount over a long period of time. For many people in Ireland, the notion that they will die and have debts hanging over the house is a major issue. It may not be a large amount for some but it is for others. The concept of home and owning one's property is stronger in Ireland than in any country in Europe I have been to. There is no point in going into the reasons for it now. We have a different feeling about property, which we want to own and perceive to be ours, even if the bank has the biggest claim to it. I do not want to talk all night. I find it ridiculous that so much time can be taken up for each amendment.

The powers being given to the Revenue Commissioners are monumental. This is the most draconian legislation that has been introduced in the House because of these new powers. It represents a serious level of disconnect between how Members feel about its implementation and how ordinary people feel about it. I have often mentioned that it was a shock to come in here after spending most of my life in the real world. I find the House a bubble and there is a serious disconnect from people. I am not giving out about the Revenue Commissioners, but giving the Revenue Commissioners the power to do what it will do in the collection of this property tax is completely new and very harsh. It represents a serious disconnect.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish I will be brief, but I am disappointed that there will not be an opportunity for the Minister to reply in light of the guillotine at 11 p.m. and the fact that other Members have indicated they wish to speak. I would like a commitment from the Minister that there will not be a guillotine on the Finance Bill. The Minister said many of the amendments could be discussed during the Finance Bill. I am pleased to see the Chief Whip in the Chamber. I hope we can discuss the proposal put forward by the Opposition. I notice only one speaker from Fine Gael. No Member from the Labour Party contributed-----

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Is Deputy Grealish here for the Progressive Democrats?

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell If everyone was not making Second Stage speeches, we would have a chance to speak.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish The Minister said the Revenue Commissioners could pursue landlords for the household charge. What about rogue landlords? What is to stop rogue landlords from claiming that the value of a property is €200,000 and trying to get property tax representing that value from tenants while registering the property at €100,000? Is there an avenue within the Bill for those renting properties to find out the value the landlord registered with the Revenue Commissioners? The Minister knows there are many rogue landlords. We have many in Galway. They are landlords from Dublin who send shady characters to collect rent every month. I have seen them and reported them to the Garda Síochána. What will protect the tenants with regard to the valuation? A landlord can claim he paid €500,000 for the house and wants a property tax equivalent to a value of €500,000. However, he may only value the house at €80,000.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly It is difficult to make any points so late in the day. The points made by the Minister reflect a disconnect with reality that I have seldom seen. People's homes are the greatest source of financial pressure on their lives when they are struggling to meet mortgage payments. They are shackled to a property and, even if they can find someone to buy it, it would not discharge their liability on it.

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