Wednesday 21 August 2019

Councils to write off rate debts for owners of vacant business premises

Councillors can devise schemes to discourage and manage vacant commercial property. Stock Image
Councillors can devise schemes to discourage and manage vacant commercial property. Stock Image
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Councillors can write off debts for business owners who have fallen behind on payments of commercial rates if their property is vacant, under new legislation passed by the Dáil.

It also allows councillors to cut commercial rates for businesses based in parts of their constituencies targeted for regeneration.

The overhaul of local authority powers is part of the Government's attempt to give councillors more responsibility over how rates are managed.

The legislation also aims to make the rates system more transparent and encourage businesses to engage with local authorities.

Councils will be able to add interest to unpaid rates if a business is refusing to pay or engage with a local authority for more than a year.

Property owners will also be forced to pay unpaid rates before a premises can be sold.

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan says the rates alleviation and abatement schemes will "empower" councillors and local authorities.

"Councillors can now devise schemes which will provide a temporary rates abatement for vacant properties, to discourage and manage vacant commercial property in towns, villages and cities," the minister says.

Mr Phelan also says the legislation allows politicians to target areas of their constituencies for development and regeneration by reducing commercial rates for businesses.

"It will mean that elected members and local authorities can support specific objectives to promote community, social and economic development, urban planning or rural regeneration," he says.

"It is the intention that such schemes can be made for specific local electoral areas or municipal districts, empowering local representatives to effect change at the most granular level locally," adds Mr Phelan.

The minister said the legislation will see more engagement between local authorities and businesses on urban planning and rural regeneration.

Local authorities will also be required to outline how they use commercial rates and specifically identify the projects the revenue is funding.

"More broadly this piece of critical legislation fits into the local government modernisation agenda being pursued by this Government," the minister said.

"We are striving to ensure that local authorities are securely funded to deliver more and better services that are tailored as closely as possible to the local communities they know best and are committed to serving," adds Mr Phelan.

With €1.5bn in revenue, commercial rates make up approximately a third of local government income every year.

Irish Independent

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