Revenue home checks 'at odds with Constitution'
Published 13/12/2012 | 05:00
NEW powers to be given to the Revenue Commissioners to enter people's homes to assess them for the property tax may face a Constitutional challenge, a leading law expert has warned.
The Local Property Tax Bill 2012 will allow tax officials to go on to land and enter properties without a search warrant.
The bill will give Revenue the power to "enter on land and inspect the relevant residential property" to assess its value.
"The section obliges the person occupying the property to allow the authorised person inspect the property at all reasonable times.
The Revenue Commissioners may provide the authorised person with information that is necessary to value the property," the legislation says.
But barrister James McDermott, who also lectures at UCD, said this provision may end up being challenged in the Supreme Court.
He said it appeared to be in conflict with article 40 of the Constitution, which states: "The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law."
Mr McDermott said this meant that homeowners had protections from having their home forcibly entered by anyone, but it was likely that Revenue would argue that the "save in accordance with law" would free them to enter homes.
Other legal experts said it was notoriously difficult for people to take cases against the Revenue and win them.
There was also some surprise in legal circles that tax officials were being given such strong powers to enter homes.
Others new powers for the tax officials are also extensive.
Anyone who refuses to pay can have the money taken from their wages by their employer, under direction from the tax officials.
And the property tax can be taken weekly out of social welfare payments.