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Finance (Local Property Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [Private Members]: Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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Finance (Local Property Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [Private Members]: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan I support the Sinn Féin Bill. Not for the first time, the Government has introduced a tax which does not do what it says on the tin. We have PRSI that does not provide one with anything and does not do what it says on the tin. The Government has introduced a carbon tax, the proceeds of which will not be spent on insulating people's homes or creating circumstances in which carbon emissions can be reduced. The proceeds of the tax which is the subject of the Bill before us do not go where they are meant to. Far from providing more money for local authorities, all the tax will do is fill the hole the Government has created by paying off debts we never accrued in the first place.

Even if that were not the case, there would be a problem in terms of accountability. If one spends money, there should be accountability in respect of what happens to it. Under the current local authority system and the one the Government plans to introduce, local authority members have and will have no power. They have the power to bow down to the Executive and keep quiet about waste, after which they might get a few crumbs. How can one back a system like that? Even if the money was not being taken from local government, it would simply be going into a bucket with a hole in it. Fix the hole first, please.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I support the Bill. Many people have seen through the tax. They saw that the only reason it was introduced was to allow the Government to pay off debts to the IMF, ECB and European Commission. The tax is not about improving services to people in local authority areas. For every cent it raises, a cent will be removed from local authority funding. No additional services will be provided nor will it sustain the services that are there already. Across local authorities, people see services being removed and closed.

We must acknowledge that the registration rate has been very high. The Government should clap itself on the back for that. It has frightened, harassed and threatened people to the effect that it was coming after them and will get the money anyway. People recognised that and through fear and gritted teeth, they signed up to pay the tax. As the tax starts to be deducted from people's wages and incomes, their anger will get deeper and deeper. The Government has created that anger by introducing this completely unfair tax and imposing it on people solely to pay off debts to the troika.

I pay tribute to all those who resisted the household charge and the property tax as it was introduced. In particular, I pay tribute to the people of Donegal who resisted these unfair taxes tooth and nail right the way through. They have seen what the tax is doing and will do in future. It is sad to say, but if Sinn Féin had openly supported the campaigns over the last year and a half outside the House rather than opposing the tax inside the House only, we might have been able to build a movement that would have rejected the tax outright and forced the Government to climb down.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The local property tax is misnamed. It is a home tax and a further burden on people who are already struggling and it should, of course, be abolished. I support the motion on that basis. It should never have been implemented in the first place. It is an absolute insult to homeowners struggling with hefty mortgages and people who have sacrificed all their lives to put a roof over their heads to find that taxation is being foisted on their shoulders when an alternative marginal increase in income tax on high earners could have yielded a similar amount of money. It is more insulting when one considers the sacrifices those people are making to pay the tax but that it will not be used to benefit local services. The dogs in the street know local services are under attack. Instead, this is a bondholders' tax.

We have listened to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, and his Government colleagues bragging that they have brow-beaten people into registering for the tax. They may think they have convinced people but methinks they do protest too much. The tax is hated. The fact that the Government had to introduce such draconian legislation to brow-beat people into registering is proof not of its success but of its weakness. We do not know how many Mickey Mouses and Donald Ducks have registered for the tax but I would think it is quite a few. Many more registered who indicated that they will pay cash, but will not when it comes to the time. One way or another, people will resist this. The Government may succeed in squeezing it out of them in this way because of the Revenue Commissioners, but people will only end up failing to pay their mortgages and not being able to buy goods in the shops. The legacy of what the Government has robbed from them will be the price the Government will most definitely pay in the next election.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I support the Bill to repeal the unfair family home tax legislation which should never have been enacted in the first place. Last year, more than 1 million households boycotted the household tax and thousands and thousands of households held off from registering until the very last minute, which is indicative of the opposition of ordinary people to the draconian legislation. It is not a wealth tax as the Labour Party has stated. Less than 2% of the revenue which will be collected will come from homes worth more than €1 million. People registered in anger, dismay, anxiety and distress. I had elderly people in my office who were crying as they asked what the hell was going on and why the Government was breaking them like this. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, says the public believes the tax is fair, to which I reply "codswallop". What is fair about draconian taxation that imposes penalties. if one cannot pay, of 4% simple interest? People were bullied and threatened and they could not afford not to pay. We saw the overvaluation of homes, issues with tax clearance certificates and the absence of an organised fight-back through the trade union movement, even though hundreds of thousands of workers put down motions at their conferences.

What is happening is exactly what we said would happen. VAT returns are already down by €250 million. I was in a local DID shop yesterday and was told that in January, February and March things seemed to be turning around whereas in the last three months trade has been as dead as a dodo. People are really getting frightened now as one sees when one talks to people on the ground. Tesco, which is one of the largest supermarket retailers in the country, has linked the fall in its sales of 3% directly to the announcement of the local property tax. This is a hated tax and this is a hated Government.

I will continue to oppose the family home tax. I agree with Deputy Pringle's point that it is well for Sinn Féin to come out and launch a national campaign to repeal the tax when it should have been out on the streets to oppose it before.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy I support the Bill. The Taoiseach said "it is morally wrong, unjust and unfair to tax a person's home". He has reneged on that promise as he has reneged on many another policy during his period in government.

  This is a form of double taxation as we have already paid these taxes. It pays no regard to ability to pay. As other speakers have said, not a single extra cent will go to local authorities for local authority services. In the last four years, more than €534 million has been taken out of local authority budgets. This is a rip-off to pay the banks and the bondholders. We know that because the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government himself has told us. Speaking in the House on 21 February 2013 on the Motor Vehicles (Duties and Licences) Bill, the Minister, Deputy Hogan, stated:

In 2012, €46.5 million of motor tax income was transferred from the local government fund to the Exchequer. This year, an amount of up to €150 million will be similarly transferred. These are necessary measures towards the reduction of the national debt.

Motor tax income is part of the local authority fund. We are paying banks and bondholders from the local government fund and replacing that fund with the hated local property tax.

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