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

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes] The task of the Government is to broaden the tax base and take in more taxes. In reducing the deficit we are doing that.

Any party, including Sinn Féin, whatever about the nonsense of the debate yesterday and today, which proposes the abolition of a property tax will be laughed out of court. This country needs to move away from its obsession with the taxation of income and work. We still have 1.8 million people working in our economy, rather than the 2 million at the top of the boom. The best way to keep those people at work and create the conditions for more people to enter the labour market on a sustainable basis is not to increase tax on work.

We already have tax on work of approximately 52%, comprising a 41% basic top rate and 11% between USC and PRSI, on quite small amounts of income, namely, anything over €32,500. Are we seriously suggesting that we can create a jobs rich economy by continuing to tax the hell out of people which, ultimately, is the Sinn Féin proposal? It is inevitable that we have to have a property tax and that it will be part and parcel of our taxation system into the future if people are honest.

The Deputies opposite claim some of my colleagues never read their documents. I read them very closely and keep a very close eye on what they have to say. I would like to talk about what they have to say because it is the nub of the debate. The Deputies opposite should answer three simple questions.

At his Ard-Fheis, Deputy Doherty proposed the abolition of USC. Is that still the position of Sinn Féin? If it is, it will have to find another €985 million to make sure the figures stack up. Of course it will not do that. We need to hear whether that is still its position. Is it still its position to reduce VAT, which we had to increase from 21% to 23%? If it is, it will have to find another €500 million. Sinn Féin would be €1.5 billion in deficit, irrespective of what it would do about wealth tax.

On 12 November last Deputy Doherty published an explanatory memorandum rather than proposed legislation. Today I asked the Bills Office for a copy of his wealth tax Bill and was told it did not have it because there are no details. It is just a speech which can be transposed and says a wealth tax will solve all our problems. On 12 November last Deputy Doherty told us: "It is our intention to table a Private Members' motion on the issue at the soonest opportunity." Let us have it now.

When Sinn Féin produces its pre-budget submission it does not start from what it said the previous year, rather, it starts from the hard measures the Deputies on this side of the House advocate and back which it then opposes. It does not compensate for that in its pre-budget submission the following year. At the heart of the Sinn Féin alternative is a fundamental lie. It knows it, we know it and the country knows it. That is why it is going down in the polls and why the comeback for Sinn Féin is nowhere near.

Deputy Pat Deering: Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak. The reason we have a property tax is because the economy has collapsed and we need to broaden our tax base. The problem began in 1977 when, for cheap political reasons, Fianna Fáil abolished rates. Sinn Féin proposes them in the North on a regular basis and is afraid to reduce them.

What Sinn Féin proposes is quite simple. Repealing the property tax and repaying the money, which has been paid by the generous people of this country at a substantial rate, would mean we would automatically, as Deputy McGrath said, need an emergency budget to find an extraordinary amount of money. I listened to the leader of Sinn Féin this morning, Deputy Adams, speaking about cuts to respite care, carers and so on. There would be even more serious cuts in those areas if we paid back the money that has been collected. We need a solid base to have fairness in society.

There has been ongoing reluctance of on the part of Opposition parties to buy into this position. Sinn Féin was initially reluctant to get involved but some of its members suggested they would not pay and provided a lot of misinformation. An extra €7 million in penalties have been paid by the decent people of the country as a result of that cheap political stunt.

The people of Donegal, Deputy Doherty's area, have paid €337,000 in penalties so far. The people in Meath, Deputy Tóibín's county, have paid €236,000 in penalties so far. The people in my county have paid €100,000 as a result of Sinn Féin's misinformation. That is the result of the cheap political stunt Sinn Féin has proposed time and again.

Yet again, its hypocrisy knows no bounds. It is not afraid to go up to the North and propose rates of up to £1,500 on average per house. The tax in the South is a fraction of that. All we have are cheap political stunts.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Sinn Féin never advocated a no pay campaign. We were very scrupulous about that. It is another lie which needs to be nailed, along with others I heard in the past 15 minutes.

Deputy Deering obviously has a problem with the truth. We have actively campaigned against the tax and offered costed, reasonable alternatives. If we fail in our endeavours today we will continue to campaign against this tax at every opportunity. We have given a commitment that if we are ever in government we will repeal it.

To put the family home tax into context, Fianna Fáil came up with the bright idea of taxing people's homes, regardless of ability to pay. In its national recovery plan 2011 to 2014 it committed itself to an interim site value tax of €100. Page 92 stated Fianna Fáil's national recovery plan would introduce an interim site value tax in 2012, applicable to all land other than agricultural land and land subject to commercial rates. The interim measure would involve a fixed local service contribution of about €100. The final site value tax would be introduced in 2013 when valuations were completed.

It goes on to commit Fianna Fáil to doubling the tax at an average of just over €200 per dwelling or site which would raise €530 million. It is roughly the same as what the Minister, his party and the Labour Party are doing in government. I raise this issue to remind the public that there is no difference between the coalition of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil on this issue. If one votes for one of them one gets them all.

There is some confusion in the coalition. Fianna Fáil was in favour of the property tax but no longer is. Fine Gael was against it but now supports it. The Labour Party flip-flopped all over the place but the Tánaiste, Deputy Gilmore, told us three years ago it would be perverse to tax people's homes. Now it is doing that in government. Any crocodile tears from Fianna Fáil are opportunism. In power it too would champion the family home tax.

Not only is the tax an attack on low-income families, it also serves to undermine local democracy. Local authorities raise almost 60% of their funding, but the Government has continued to slash funding. The public pay motor tax to fund local services, in particular roads, but the Government grabbed €150 million to pay debts. Households will not receive one extra service from the tax. People pay income taxes, motor tax and local authority charges.


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