Property tax: pay up if you want to appeal
HOMEOWNERS who dispute their property tax bill with the Revenue Commissioners will have to pay the full amount upfront before they are allowed to appeal.
Fears are growing that there could be lengthy delays lasting several months before their cases are heard because there are just two people responsible for dealing with the final appeals from up to 1.6 million households.
It has raised concerns about the efficiency and fairness of the appeals system for the controversial property tax, as estimated bills from the Revenue continue to arrive through letter boxes.
The public will not be able to hold off paying the tax until their appeal is decided because the Revenue has confirmed it will only allow an appeal if the tax has already been paid.
If the Revenue disputes a householder's own estimate of the property tax, the householder will be allowed to give evidence to back up their valuation.
But if the Revenue still does not accept it, they have to go to the Appeals Commissioners, Ronan Kelly and John O'Callaghan.
In a rare public interview, Mr O'Callaghan warned the public not to "bury their head in the sand" by ignoring the property tax estimates from the Revenue.
"The so-called ostrich approach is the worst possible one. If you think they are wrong, write in and say they are wrong, because they will act then. They are pretty efficient," he said.
The Appeals Commissioners have been given the task of deciding on all final property tax appeals – on top of their existing workload of handling all existing tax bill challenges from PAYE workers, the self-employed and businesses.
They have just two additional staff in their Dublin office to help them – an administrator and an assistant administrator.
If even 1pc of the country's 1.6 million households end up appealing their property tax bill to them, it will leave them with 16,000 cases to handle.
The Appeals Commissioners currently deal with around 300 to 400 cases per year and have a two-month waiting list.
They rarely publish decisions on appeal cases, do not publish an annual report, and their website was last updated five years ago. They cannot be contacted by phone, only in writing.
Fianna Fail public expenditure spokesman Sean Fleming said that while the Revenue would be able to deal with most appeals internally, there was no possibility that the Appeal Commissioners would be able to cope with any significant level of further appeals.
"If even 0.5pc appeal, that's 8,000 people. It will gum up the whole system," he said.
Mr O'Callaghan said it was his "hunch" that there would not be as many property tax appeals as people thought.
He said he expected that 99.9pc of issues would be dealt with beforehand by Revenue.
"My hunch is that the appeals that come to us will be on technical matters," he said.
Mr O'Callaghan pledged that the Appeals Commissioners would publish all property tax appeal cases on their website.
And he said they would apply to the Government for extra staff if necessary because there was "no way" of accurately predicting how many property tax appeals there would be.
The Revenue has admitted that the impact of the property tax appeals on the work of the Appeal Commissioners "cannot be accurately predicted" at this stage.
But it said that there should only be appeals in a small number of situations because the property tax was self-assessed.
"However, the matter will be kept under review," it said in a statement.