independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Revenue to use aerial photos for house tax

The GeoDirectory mapping site, in this instance showing the offices of the Irish Independent in Dublin and surrounding area

THE taxman will use GPS-style technology to help work out your property tax bill.

Sophisticated aerial mapping will be used to measure a home's proximity to shops, transport links, schools and other amenities that have a bearing on a property's value.

A 'deprivation index' will also be used to measure the affluence or poverty of an area, which will also have a bearing on the value and the amount of tax that should be paid.

Homeowners will receive letters in the coming weeks telling them how much the Revenue thinks their home is worth and the tax band the property falls into.

The revelations show the hi-tech lengths the Revenue is going to in order to clamp down on those who knowingly undervalue their home for the new charge.

It is employing a sophisticated database which calculates a property's location in relation to facilities that increase its value.

Aerial maps and GPS-style systems will measure "the distance from each property to a series of amenities and services".

These will include train and Luas lines, airports, health services, schools, shops and emergency services such as garda stations.

The data will then be used by the Revenue to arrive at its estimate of how much every home in the country is worth and how much property tax should be paid.

It could lead to more protests from people living in cities, where there are more amenities close to hand, who claim they will unfairly pay more tax than those in rural areas.

Dublin city dwellers are likely to pay an average property tax of €405 compared with their rural counterparts, who will pay about €249.

Once Revenue has compiled its estimates they will be posted to every homeowner in the country within a matter of weeks. The tax will be levied at a rate of 0.18pc of house value, with a higher "mansion tax" rate of 0.25pc on values over €1m. There will be up to 19 different valuation bands, starting at under €100,000 and increasing in €50,000 tranches.

But the tax is still effectively self-assessed as homeowners will decide themselves which band to put their house into.

The self-assessed value will override the Revenue estimate, but as previously revealed in the Irish Independent, those who deviate from the provided estimates face the prospects of checks, inspections and challenges.

If the Revenue's estimate is used by a homeowner, they will not be challenged.

Those who do not respond for the property tax will be liable anyway, and will pay the charge based on the Revenue estimate of their home's value.

To help the Revenue arrive at its estimates, a GPS-like system called GeoDirectory is now being used to measure the distance from homes to local services.

It is unclear if this is costing the Revenue significant extra money – the system already exists as a joint venture between An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland.

GeoDirectory manages Ireland's only complete database of commercial and residential buildings.

Each of the buildings in the database has a unique identification, and the system can specify the use of around 90pc of buildings in the country – if they are, for example, a newsagents, school, takeaway or office block.

The technology is already used by city and county councils to help co-ordinate services such as local roads, libraries, sanitation and the fire services.

It is also used by various state agencies to analyse the population, assess which services are needed in which areas and to maintain records of every commercial and residential address in the State.

A Revenue spokeswoman confirmed that the proximity of amenities would be taken into account when estimating the amount of tax it thinks everyone should pay.

"A range of data sources is being analysed to assist in providing this valuation guidance," the spokeswoman said.

Other data feeding into the Revenue include stamp duty receipts from 2010 on, electricity bills, rental details and records from the controversial €100 household charge.

The spokeswoman said the GeoDirectory "provides information on property location and type; and spatially derived data that indicate relative distances of all residential properties from a series of key amenities and services including transport, health, education and emergency services".

Affluence

The location data will also feed into a special online guide which will be set up on the Revenue website early next month to allow people to value their properties.

Among other things, the guide will take into account whether the property is semi-detached or detached or if it is an apartment, when it was built and the average prices of properties in the same area.

A deprivation index will be used to measure the "relative affluence or disadvantage of a particular geographical area using data compiled from various censuses".

The deprivation index was compiled for Pobal, a government agency that works for social inclusion, and is mainly based on the 2011 Census.

Irish Independent

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