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 Header Item Care Services: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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  9 o’clock

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

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

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I will continue by stating my opposition to the proposals regarding the Revenue Commissioners and the fact that the Revenue Commissioners will have far-reaching powers when it comes to forcing people to pay the property tax. Many people fear the implications of the Fines (Amendment) Bill which is to come before the House. The Minister knows that many houses in our towns and villages that sold for €200,000 and €300,000 have recently been sold through NAMA for €40,000, €50,000 and €60,000. In some cases, it was like a lucky bag where one could buy 20 and get ten free. Where will we be when it comes to putting a value on those properties? If a person has a mortgage of €200,000 or €300,000 on his or her property but can point to a house down the street that has sold for €40,000 or €50,000, is it not fair, right and reasonable to say that this is the true asset value of the house and that, therefore, if this person must pay a tax, it should be set at that value? That is a very important point.

I am sure the Minister is aware that local authorities are preparing and passing budgets and having budget meetings. The town council in Listowel, a place the Minister knows very well, held its budget meeting last night where it had to make an allowance of €9,000 for half a year's property tax on properties it owns. The Minister knows that if Listowel Town Council must pay €9,000 next year, that money will come from another part of its budget where it was providing necessary services with that money. People will be hit on the double. We are being told it is to provide better local services but in that instance, the Minister is taking away local services. Kerry County Council held its budget meeting yesterday. It has made an allowance of €40,000 to pay the property tax. We were led to believe the local authorities would not have to pay the property tax. That €40,000 will not fall out of the sky. It must be taken from somewhere else so that money, be it for street cleaning, fire stations, repair of footpaths or street lighting, does not appear from nowhere. It comes from the budget to pay the property tax.

The whole thing is wrong. I again emphasise that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Minister and his political experience but I remind him that the one thing said by the Government parties when they were campaigning in the general election was that previous Governments had lost their way. He should marry that with this scenario. On the day this Budget was being passed, the Minister with responsibility for introducing it did not see fit to be here in the House and was away in India. I will say no more about that. Young couples are burdened with this massive debt from which they will never free themselves unless there is a massive write-down. If these couples have a mortgage of €250,000 but their house is valued at €100,000, there should be a bailout for them in the same way as there was for the banks and their mortgages should be re-adjusted to the value of the house. If the value of the house is €100,000, their mortgage should be reduced to €100,000, they should pay a property tax on €100,000 and at least they could see some light for the rest of their lives besides an overpowering debt and burden upon them.

I know it is not falling on deaf ears with the Minister because of his experience. He would not be in politics for as long if he had not listened to people over the years. He cannot think that this is right. It is ill-devised and badly thought out and has been rammed through by a Minister who has lost touch with reality. To be in India when a budget was being presented with a property tax for the first time in many years did not make sense and did not send out the right message to young people who are suffering and living on the most minute budgets. They are failing to pay their electricity bills, are trying to scrape money together every week to do the shopping and make their small budgets go as far as possible and will see the mighty people on this side of the House impose a property tax on them. It is immoral and insane and people are very angry about it, particularly younger couples who are saddled with debt.

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I thank all the Deputies who contributed. Once it settled down, there were some very interesting interventions and comments. I will not be able to reply to everything because if I do, I will take up the rest of the time that is available but I would like to deal with a few points that were reflected across the House.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish Give us more time then.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Lift the guillotine.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The initial criticism is that we are guillotining the Bill and it is being put through without adequate debate. Very often, budgetary measures are put through on that basis. From time immemorial, the Financial Resolutions are taken on budget night for the text changes and they must be put through before midnight. In recent years, the social welfare Bill has been taken in a very short timeframe to implement another set of budgetary measures. On this occasion, we are implementing the property tax measures as well.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan If Deputies do not want to hear me, I will sit down and they can ramble on like they did for the past hour and a half. If they want me to reply, I will reply so which is it?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I want to hear it.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will Deputies allow the Minister to respond?

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Revenue Commissioners, who have been charged with collecting this tax, have informed me that if we legislate in the Finance Bill, it will be too late for them to make the arrangements they require to collect the tax so they have advised me that we should legislate before Christmas so they have certainty about the provisions of the Bill and can make the arrangements for the tax. That is the first point.

The second point is in reply to Deputy Donnelly who asked about amendments. I obviously cannot do it tonight but I am noting any interesting points made and we will come back and amend in the course of the Finance Bill. I am already considering amendments on the position of executors and whether they would be liable or not. I am considering the pyrite situation and have already made a commitment that owners of houses affected by pyrite will not have to pay the local property tax. The question there is the actual format of the amendment. I am also looking at the position of approved housing bodies because I received a number of representations. If people come up with good suggestions tonight, I will look at them again and we can adjust that in the Finance Bill and it kicks back in.

The main drive tonight is on the Title of the Bill. There were very strong objections to the fact that it is called the local property tax. I presume we all agree it is a tax so there are only two words in question whether it is a property tax or local. It is a property tax because it is a tax on houses.


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