Collection level for commercial rates drops 17pc in four years
THE level of commercial rates received has plummeted 17pc in four years.
The day after measures were introduced in the Budget to help small and medium enterprises, the Department of the Environment revealed the collection level for rates had fallen to 76pc last year from 93pc in 2007.
The department's secretary general, Geraldine Tallon, said local authorities have tried to cut the burden on businesses which are having difficulties in paying.
"Local authorities have acted as things stand to contain and to seek to reduce costs for ratepayers over recent years," Ms Tallon said.
"In a number of cases there have been actual reductions and in other cases the rates have been held steady."
Ms Tallon told the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that commercial rates would continue to be a significant part of the income of local authorities, accounting for about 30pc.
The household charge has replaced the exchequer contribution to local government funding, and Ms Tallon said the property tax, announced in yesterday's Budget, is expected to also replace the motor tax contribution for councils in years to come.
"It is likely that property tax will replace motor tax revenue in the local government fund so that local government will be self-sustaining and motor tax will become more part of the exchequer taxation regime," she said.
Bodies representing businesses, including the Small Firms Association (SFA), have called on the Government to commit to reducing rates, claiming their members are struggling to keep up with payments.
Meanwhile, Ms Tallon also told the committee that owners of about 290,000 septic tanks have registered with their local authority.
But at least 110,000 have yet to come forward as the February 1 deadline looms.
Ms Tallon could not say how many people had registered before the end of September to avail of the reduced registration fee of €5.
TDs were also told that 1.1 million people had paid the household charge by November 28.
It is estimated that there are about 1.6m properties eligible for the charge nationwide.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced in the Budget that the charge would be scrapped next year, but would be replaced with a property tax worth 0.18pc of the value of homes up to €1m. Any unpaid arrears, penalties and charges that have accrued will remain a charge on the property.