Friday 19 December 2014

Household tax dodgers pay up as Revenue closes in

Paul Melia and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 06/05/2013 | 05:00

Revenue chief Josephine Feehily said she will use a a range of powers to ensure compliance.

HOMEOWNERS who dodged paying the €100 household charge are being flushed out by fears they will be targeted by the taxman.

A flood of household tax protesters are paying up ahead of the first property tax deadline, which falls tomorrow.

The Revenue Commissioners will take over responsibility for collecting both taxes from July 1, and has promised to chase any tax evaders.

In the past week alone, almost 20,000 homeowners have paid the household charge – in a massive surge.

Government sources say the rise in homeowners suddenly paying the household charge is down to the fear of Revenue being on their trail – and the risk of having all their income audited.

Revenue is expected to target those who failed to pay the household charge in the first wave of enforcement.

It will use a database identifying the 1.2 million households who have paid the charge and will cross-reference it with details of those sent property tax demand letters. A comparison of both databases will help identify non-payers.

"Over the last number of weeks there has been a lot of interest in paying up on the household charge arrears," a government source said.

"The first thing Revenue will look at when they get the list is the people who haven't paid the household charge. They are putting themselves up in lights if they haven't paid the household charge."

Similar to the Revenue's policy on income tax dodgers, failure to pay the property tax will result in people running the risk of an audit.

They also face the prospect of being hit with hefty late-payment interest of 8pc, additional cash penalties and the possibility of being prosecuted.

In the past week alone, some 19,478 household charge rebels paid up as the arrival of the property tax made them anxious about being caught.

This is almost a three-fold increase on the previous week, when 7,753 paid. Almost 1.2 million households have now paid the tax, or 74pc.

Revenue has a lot more power to enforce payment than the local authorities did under the household charge, and often cites the threat of an audit for taxpayers who fail to file their tax returns on time.

Chairwoman Josephine Feehily said she was confident that 97pc of people would pay the property tax, and will use a range of powers to ensure compliance.

They include taking the tax from PAYE workers' pay packets, drawing the money through attachment of bank accounts and taking deductions from state payments.

Evaders may also be tracked through power or phone providers, the HSE, or the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Most of this year is expected to focus on updating the database of compliant households, with enforcement action expected to begin later this year.

Services

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said that some €125.7m has been collected through the household charge, which had been allocated to local authorities to provide essential services.

But he warned that the Revenue Commissioners would chase evaders.

"In the last few years Irish people have had a tough time of it and, in spite of that, nearly 1.2 million people paid the household charge," he said.

"We are on the road to economic recovery but it is a road that requires difficult decisions. This Government is prepared to take the hard decisions that will get us there.

"The tax base in Ireland will be broadened this year with the introduction of the Local Property Tax and in the long run this will provide local authorities with the ability to raise funding locally and spend it on necessary local services.

"Any liability to the household charge that remains un-discharged on July 1, 2013, shall be treated as a charge of €200 to local property tax that is due and payable on that date."

A €30 penalty was added to the €100 household charge on January 1 for those who had not paid. This has since increased to €144, and will rise to €145 next month and to €200 from July 1 – the day Revenue takes responsibility for collecting it.

Irish Independent

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