Hundreds escape second-home tax
Cash-strapped councils can't afford to track down 'dodgers'
HUNDREDS of people are likely to escape the tax on second homes after the authorities admitted it is too expensive and time consuming to pursue those who have refused to pay it.
The Department of the Environment admitted resources were not available to pinpoint the identities of those dodging the €200-a-year non-principal private residence (NPPR) charge.
A spokesman said it would be a costly and time-consuming task to correlate information from land registry records -- a task beyond the capabilities of most cash-strapped county councils.
The councils have also been deterred from tackling suspected tax dodgers due to the prohibitive cost of taking court action to recoup the €200 and late penalties of €20 a month.
"We know that there are people who are avoiding the tax but it would be a huge task to identify them all," one local authority official told the Irish Independent.
"There is no one specific database available to us that has all this information.
"It was always going to be a job of work but we've identified more people year on year and we expect to reduce the numbers who are not paying the charge year on year."
Some legal cases are planned. However, these are expected to only target a relatively small minority of tax dodgers who own several properties each.
The councils were put in charge of collecting the NPPR tax following its introduction in 2009. Council funding from central government was cut by €40m at the time -- putting pressure on the councils to make up the shortfall by collecting the second-home tax.
But so far councils have been relying on property owners to declare the second homes themselves, rather than taking proactive steps to compile a full list of people owning more than one residential property.
County councils earned more than €68m from the NPPR charges last year, but it is not known how much potential revenue is being missed out on as a result of people avoiding the tax.
Sligo County Council, which oversees the NPPR project nationally, admitted it had no figures on the estimated number of second properties in the country.
Despite these shortcomings, some councils are talking tough on the issue and threatening legal action.
However, the Irish Independent has learnt that any potential cases in the pipeline will concentrate on people suspected of owning more than one second property.
Galway County Council has written to all owners of second homes in the county registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, reminding them of their obligations and has issued a number of legal letters.
Last year more than 14,000 people registered second homes in Co Kerry but officials suspect the actual figure is much higher.
A spokesman told the Irish Independent: "Kerry County Council is examining a number of cases with a view to pursuing legal action against them."
Wexford County Council estimates that out of its approximate 14,000 second homes, 3,600 of these are holiday homes. Through research the local authority has identified "a number" of properties that may be liable for the charge.
A spokesman for Cork County Council said that because it was a self-declaration form of taxation, it was not known how many NPPR properties are in the county.
"All that is known for certain is the number of properties that have been declared by owners," a spokesman said.
The council has not initiated legal proceedings against any property owners to date.