Thousands sent warning on household tax in error
UP to 3,000 people a day are phoning the agency charged with collecting the household tax to complain they have mistakenly been sent letters reminding them to pay.
The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) has admitted that thousands of households that have already paid the tax may have been sent letters in recent weeks.
And even though it's their mistake, the agency expects recipients to contact them to correct the record.
Some 545,209 or one-third of those liable have refused to pay and are being written to, asking them to pay the €100 tax. The letters warn homeowners that they may be hit with interest and penalties for failing to pay.
LGMA chief executive Paul McSweeney said that people who contacted them to explain they had paid the charge would not be forced to pay a penalty.
The letters were sent because there was no database that showed the owners of houses and apartments across the State who were liable for the charge, he said.
Data held by the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was used, which could be out of date. He said up to 3,000 people a day were calling the agency to complain.
"We have taken datasets from the PRA and matched them against those who have already paid the household charge," he said.
"There isn't a property database, no single register showing who owns what house or apartment. In the circumstances we've done an excellent job, with two-thirds compliance.
"It has been difficult but we do need co-operation from people in the country. If you own property, you need to pay. If you have received a letter in error, contact us and we will change things."
Latest figures show that 66pc of all liable households have paid the charge. The lowest payment rate is in Donegal (54pc), and the highest is in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (84pc).
If paid today, the charge would be €128. The penalties were initially calculated at 10pc of the charge, plus €1 per month. The penalty has increased to 20pc per month, plus the 1pc, and will rise to 30pc from next February.
The household charge will be replaced by a property tax from next year.
Mr McSweeney asked people to email the LGMA at email@example.com or send a letter if they had paid the tax but received a reminder.
But the latest problems come just days after controversy over several councils sending out letters to children and dead people asking them to pay the household charge. This was also blamed on out-of-date data.
Fianna Fail said the collection regime had caused unnecessary distress to homeowners.
"The roll-out and collection of the household charge has been a complete fiasco," environment spokesman Barry Cowen said. "Just when you think the maximum amount of confusion, chaos and distress has been caused, the fiasco is brought to an entirely new level."