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12/18/2012 12:00:00 AM


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Murphy, Catherine

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

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787

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3

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

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

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Amendment No

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Senator


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Deputy Catherine Murphy

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Deputy Catherine Murphy

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Catherine Murphy

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Snippet Contents:

I support amendment No. 4, which is line with amendments I have tabled dealing with such issues as negative equity and stamp duty. These are issues the Fine Gael Party referred to specifically in its election manifesto - on page 27 of the document, if I recall correctly. Many people paid a great deal of attention to what the party had to say before the election and decided to elect its members to the Dáil on that basis. Those voters had an expectation that a tax on the family home would not be introduced by this Government. They paid careful attention when Fine Gael expressed concerns regarding the implications of a property tax for people who were asset rich and income poor and those who had paid sizeable sums in stamp duty in recent years. The Minister said earlier that people with larger houses tend to have larger incomes. That was not his view at the time his party manifesto was drawn up. In fact, there are many people who are asset rich and income poor and they will be impacted in precisely the way the Minister's party undertook not to permit.
One of the observations that is often made regarding Independent Members during elections is that we are not on a par with the parties because the latter put together policies and manifestos setting out clear choices for voters. The reality, however, is that we have seen the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, on television in recent days telling us that such undertakings are simply what parties do before an election. The views offered by Members on this side of the House are treated by the Government as some type of comedy sketch, even though they are the same views set out in the Fine Gael manifesto before the election and to which people consequently believed that party would adhere in government. Moreover, the Fine Gael manifesto was drawn up in full knowledge of the memorandum of understanding with the troika. The party knew what was the economic situation when it put together its policies. People have an absolute right to be enraged at the difference between what was promised and what is being done by Fine Gael in government.
There was certainly an expectation that the plight of home owners in negative equity would be given a high priority by this Government, with solutions rolled out at an early stage. Many of these householders, because they are of a certain age and bought at a certain time, are the same ones whose mortgages are distressed. Instead of offering solutions for that cohort, however, the Government is lumping additional pain on it. Talking frivolously about the new tax being only €4 per week ignores the reality that some of these people are absolutely at breaking point. I do not want to keep reiterating the point regarding suicide, but I had three constituents visit me on a Friday afternoon recently who told me they were contemplating taking their own lives. What does one say to somebody who is in that horrific situation? There is a breaking point for people and large numbers in this country are getting closer to it by the day. What we see here is a situation where there are two Irelands. One of these is doing so badly that the people who make up its population are being put at real risk.
I particularly support the provision in the amendment for account to be taken in assessing the value of a property of any adaptations made to accommodate householders' disabilities. There is a great deal of irony in a situation where a household deemed eligible for a grant from a local authority - which depends, of course, on whether one lives in the right county and the local authority has a discretionary fund to enable it to draw down moneys for that purpose - to construct an extension to accommodate a family member with a disability, and whose home consequently increases in value, will be liable for a higher property tax payment, even though the adaptation made might have kept the person with the disability out of residential care. I urge the Minister to give this proposal careful consideration.
Like other speakers, I have a difficulty with the word "local" in reference to the property tax. We do not have a system of local government in this country but rather a very poor and dysfunctional system of local administration. Local decision making is essentially centralised and the notion that there will be major reform in this regard, with up to 40 councillors in a room, is nonsensical. In the absence of any steps towards meaningful local government reform, it is difficult to ask people to countenance a local property tax without making clear exceptions where there is a clear need for such. I understand, for example, that the Commission on Taxation proposed a seven-year exemption for householders who paid stamp duty in recent years. That proposal should be revisited. It is simply immoral to ask people who already essentially paid a property tax lump sum to pay it again within such a tight timeframe, especially when many such householders are burdened with 100% mortgages.
My final point relates to the role of the Revenue Commissioners in collecting the property tax. This will create a monster out of Revenue while lumping an enormous responsibility onto it. There is a breaking point in that organisation and this new role will endanger the orderly collection of other taxes. That is a matter of serious concern.