Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Farmers slam David McWilliams' land tax proposal as 'populist nonsense'

David McWilliams
David McWilliams
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Calls by economist David McWilliams to tax land to the hilt have been branded "populist nonsense".

In an article in the Irish Independent last weekend McWilliams described land as a “useless asset which generates no innovation, no creativity, no enhanced productivity”.

He went on to say that it is a feudal, pre-industrial-age asset, so taxing it would not hinder the economy in any way.

“It would simply encourage those who hold land to make it more productive. This means selling it for more productive activity like making it available for houses, rather than hoarding it.

“This would drive down the cost of housing and this fall in the cost of housing would also put money back in the pocket,” he said.

However, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has hit back at the calls.

Mr Sherlock said the comments by Mr McWilliams ignored the fact that outside of the cities, land in Europe is used not only to feed the population but is also the basis for attracting tourists, is a store for carbon and is increasingly used as a source of renewable energy. 

“During the crash when this country was at risk of going under, farmers kept their shoulders to the wheel and used the land to increase our agri-food exports year after year to some €11.15 billion in 2016.

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“This would not have been possible if we had taxed land to the hilt or dismissed it as useless. Unlike other sectors, the value of agri-food exports has minimal import content and has a trickle down benefit to all rural communities rather than being repatriated internationally.”

“While there may well be a case to incentivise the development of inner city sites in Dublin for housing, this is no excuse to impose another burden on hard working farmers in rural Ireland who are already under severe income pressure.

“Far from being privileged, farmers who own land have seen their labours increasingly undermined by greedy retailers and processors who take more and more margin from the food chain. A far better focus would be to take a fair share of tax from such operations who are clearly making billions off the back of farmers,” Sherlock said.

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