Shatter silent on tax break as policy faces Budget curbs
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is still staying silent on whether he is benefiting from a key property tax break -- despite being a member of the cabinet that will decide its fate in the Budget.
Mr Shatter has a share in 15 properties, including nine in Ireland, giving him the largest property portfolio of any cabinet minister.
But at a briefing on Government preparations for a winter weather crisis yesterday, he refused to say if he was benefiting from a Section 23 tax break for people who bought investment properties.
"I don't know what Section 23 has got to do with severe weather," he said.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has confirmed that a review into Section 23 tax relief and a public consultation have both been completed.
"As is customary, I do not propose to comment in advance of the Budget on any matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions," he said recently.
The previous government had promised to significantly restrict the scope of the tax break to bring in up to €400m over the next four years.
But it pulled back from implementing the measure in the 2011 Finance Act after a backlash from small property investors who warned it would put them under huge financial pressure.
According to the Department of Finance, Section 23 investors in the 2004-2008 period submitted claims worth €5bn on which they were entitled to tax relief of €1.9bn. And they were also allowed to claim exemption from tax on a further €5bn income from various sources.
The department is not planning to restrict Section 23 tax relief for those living or working in the properties they bought.
Mr Shatter and his investment partners may be availing of Section 23 relief on one of their Dublin apartments to reduce their overall tax bill on the rental profits from their other properties.
The minister bought 34 Block A Smithfield Market, Dublin 7, with partners Brian Gallagher, Tim O'Sullivan and Aidan Reynolds and registered it in September 2008.
Mr Shatter is chairman of the emergency planning taskforce responsible for co-ordinating efforts to deal with a winter weather crisis.
Last year, former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey was criticised when he flew to Malta on holiday at a time when snowy conditions and temperatures of -5C caused chaos.
Yesterday Mr Shatter refused to say if he would stay at home during such a crisis -- rather than fly to a sunny destination such as Florida, where he and his wife own four properties.
"You can be relatively assured that the appropriate ministers will be available to deal with issues should difficulties arise," he said.