Retailers fear demands for property tax will hit crucial Christmas sales
BUSINESS leaders have expressed concern that Revenue's efforts to collect the 2014 property tax could impact on the busiest spending period of the year in the run-up to Christmas.
They believe the confusion surrounding the tax – which has seen homeowners flood a Revenue helpline with calls this week – is in danger of wiping out any consumer confidence that was created by last month's Budget.
Revenue said it was satisfied with its current publicity campaign surrounding the collection of the 2014 local property tax (LPT) and had no plans to alter it to address the confusion among the public.
It said more than 20,000 people had already filed their property tax returns for 2014 since it sent out letters to more than 960,000 property owners last week.
Those paying by credit or debit card or cheques will have to pay the tax immediately – and so will have paid their 2013 and 2014 LPT in the same year.
Retailers have warned that this could threaten fragile consumer confidence just as they enter the most important time of the year for sales.
"It's definitely a concern for us. Retailers tell us that a huge bulk of their trade for the full year is done in the November-December period in the run-up to Christmas," said Andrew Smyth, spokesman for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.
"Consumer confidence is increasing, as we have seen over the last couple of months. But something like this, where people could be out of pocket before the big shopping period, is not ideal."
Mr Smyth said Revenue should consider launching a new publicity campaign, making it clear that people have until March 21 to pay the tax.
Revenue's property tax helpline was inundated with calls from confused homeowners this week, leading to waiting times of up to 45 minutes.
However, Vivienne Dempsey, property tax project manager with Revenue, said the delays had now reduced significantly.
"In the early days there were quite long delays, and part of that was that over 900,000 letters were issued over a short number of days and a lot of people called us at the same time," she told RTE's 'Today With Sean O'Rourke'.
"Those calls have eased off. Now the waiting time is significantly reduced and we're just asking people to bear with us.
"A lot of calls are coming in, but we're answering those calls in a much faster time."