Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Angry farmers dismiss SFA call to increase rates burden

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A suggestion that farmers should be subjected to county council commercial rates has provoked an angry response from the farm organisations.

The Small Firms Association (SFA) claims the current rates system needs a complete re-vamp to relieve the pressure on a shrinking pool of urban businesses.

"Farming is a business like any other and at the moment and unlike many city-and-town- based retail operations, it's doing quite well," said SFA director Patricia Callan.

"Therefore it's only fair that farmers should also pay commercial rates and bear their fair share of infrastructure and service costs,"

However, the suggestion was dismissed by the ICMSA president John Comer as "utterly unproductive" and "without any connection to reality."

"If the SFA thinks the commercial rates system is wrong or inefficient, then they should advance arguments to change it or reform it -- not to extend it.

"Commercial rates are paid because of the increased commercial opportunities that come with proximity to centres of population.

"That idea is null and void when applied to a farm," said Mr Comer.

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Mr Comer said farmers already pay far more in compliance costs than the amounts paid by comparable businesses in other sectors.

The IFA added that farm buildings do not benefit from the services provided for commercial buildings in urban areas.

"The SFA would be better employed to concentrate whatever capacity it has on representing its own members and not proposing solutions that increase costs for other sectors.

"This can only damage the viability of thousands of small businesses dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods," said IFA president John Bryan.

Local authorities are struggling with debts running into the billions, falling government funding and a dwindling pool of businesses able to pay their rates.

To bridge the shortfall in finances, substantial increases in commercial rates, water and user charges have been applied.

The SFA wants a complete revamp of the rates system since it claims that many businesses are struggling to pay rates that are based on property valuations from 10 years ago when the boom was in full swing.

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