IT is a large house in the middle of Phoenix Park with its own private entrance, 24-hour security and reception facilities fit for world leaders. But Aras an Uachtarain has been valued at a mere €750,000 or less for the purposes of the property tax.
That means it escapes the 'mansion tax', which is imposed on houses worth more than €1m. The total property tax bill for the Aras is €1,300 per year and is paid by the house's owner -- the Office of Public Works (OPW) -- rather than President Michael D Higgins himself.
Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys, who obtained figures on the OPW property valuations, said he believed the Aras was "grossly undervalued".
"I certainly would believe that it's worth more than €1m. This is money that could be paying for local council services in Dublin," he said.
Steward's Lodge in Phoenix Park -- available for the Taoiseach and visiting guests -- has been valued at €850,000. Farmleigh House has escaped the property tax because it is classified as a museum.
However, an OPW spokeswoman said that the valuation of Aras an Uachtarain only related to the residential section of the building. The office accommodation in the Aras does not have to be included because the property tax applies to residential property only. This is the same rule which applies to business owners who live above their shop or pub.
The OPW is also paying property tax on six lodges in the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain, which range in value from €250,000 to less than €100,000.
It also has to pay property tax of €675 a year for Ardilaun Lodge -- also known as the gardener's cottage -- in St Stephen's Green, which is valued at between €350,000 and €400,000. The lodge was originally built as a residence for the superintendent of the St Stephen's Green park.
The OPW has declined to give details of the valuation of most of its properties. It said that it was considering selling some of them off, so the values were commercially sensitive.
The OPW is responsible for managing state property nationwide. Its total property portfolio spans 2,255 holdings, with 635 buildings housing the Civil Service, 840 Garda properties and 780 heritage properties.
It leases many properties but its annual bill has fallen from €130m in 2009 to €107m last year. The total floor area of its office portfolio has decreased from 950,714sqm in 2008 to 879,742sqm last year.