Thousands await Revenue decision on mortgage relief
TWO thousand cash-strapped homeowners who had their mortgage-interest tax relief cut last year are still waiting for the Revenue to process their claims.
Nine months after the valuable relief was withdrawn from householders, they are still waiting for the taxman to assess if they are eligible.
It could be the end of the year before the Revenue hands back the full arrears owed to these mortgage holders.
Mortgage-interest relief on second or subsequent homes is worth up to €75 a month -- or €900 a year -- to consumers.
The review came about because of changes introduced in the April 2009 Budget, which capped interest-relief payments at seven years. This prompted the Revenue to review who was eligible for the relief.
The entitlement has already been restored to 45,000 people who had it suspended for the review. After an examination of these cases, the Revenue said it had paid arrears to these householders.
However, in 9,000 complicated cases involving top-up mortgages or consolidated loans, the Revenue said it had to seek specific information from the mortgage holder to determine whether or not they qualified for tax relief.
"Based on information received to date, Revenue has restored relief in 1,000 cases and is processing some 2,000 completed responses to this information request," it said.
The remaining 6,000 cases were either invalid or householders did not supply sufficient information.
The Revenue said the review would be completed as soon as possible but it would then be up to banks and building societies to decide whether to return arrears owed in one lump sum or to spread it out over 2010.
The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) said that with households facing extreme financial pressures, it was vital to complete the review within the next month. Chief executive Dermott Jewell said: "It is also vital that people get back any arrears owed immediately. Households need every euro they can get. There would even be an argument for compensation but the best thing would be just to pay what's owed rapidly."
In total, 564,000 householders were receiving mortgage-interest relief until this change but 242,000 of them were first-time buyers who were not affected by the change. They suffered no disruption to their higher relief payments, which are worth up to €2,500 a year or €5,000 for a married couple.
The Revenue examined the accounts of 322,000 non-first-time buyers and 57,000 were deemed to be ineligible for the relief from May 1, 2009.
Another 150,000 homeowners were rapidly found to be eligible for the relief and in 34,000 cases mortgage-relief payments were restored to homeowners, with any arrears being automatically credited.
That left 115,000 cases where the Revenue needed further information. It said: "Following replies received to date, 45,000 account holders have had their entitlement restored. Any arrears were or are being automatically credited to such accounts."
In the remaining 70,000 cases, householders were either ineligible for relief or did not answer requests for more data.