No reprieve for farmland from controversial tax in new Finance Bill, as ICMSA and Independent TD Sean Canney call for distinction between farmers and property developers
There is no mention of reprieve for farmland from a new zoned land tax in the Finance Bill published by the Government in recent days.
The Bill sets out the criteria for which types of land will be eligible for the new annual tax.
Land included in a development plan or local area plan and zoned for residential use, or for a mixture of uses, including residential, will be eligible for the tax.
However, under the law local authorities — which will in the coming months, identify zoned land within the scope of the tax — may consider reasons why some land my not be suitable, including issues access such as to infrastructure, roads water supply and current use.
There is no specific mention of a derogation from the tax for land being used for agriculture.
The tax will be based on the market value of the land and has been set at 3pc, reviewable every three years.
In a Dáil debate on the Finance Bill, only one TD voiced concerns over its impact on farmers.
Galway Independent TD Seán Canney said some people who own zoned land might not be in a position to sell it because they are farming it and may want to keep doing so or hand it down to the family.
“I do not see how we can tax people who are using land,” he said.
“It is important that we differentiate between the speculators who buy land, get it zoned and sell it on, and those people who own their land and who never asked for it to be zoned because they use it for other purposes.”
The Department of Housing has indicated that there will be around 8,000-9,000ha of land within the scope of the tax by end of 2022 and that some 90pc could be agricultural land.
The Department of Finance recently told the Farming Independent that where land is zoned residential and is serviced, there will be an option for a person to apply to have their land de-zoned, if for example, a farmer wishes to continue to farm his land rather than develop it or sell it for development.
This, it said, will follow a due Local Authority process, and it also said there can be no certainty about the success of such an application.
Shane O’Loughlin, chair of the ICMSA’s Farm Business Committee, said it was disappointing that the “manifest unfairness” of the Zoned Land Tax in relation to farmland had not been explicitly addressed in the Finance Bill.
He said it is essential that the issue is worked out well before next November, when local authorities will register the lands on which the tax is paid.
Mr O’Loughlin said the tax cannot apply to farm families who may have been farming the lands in question for generations.
He said the ICMSA will insist that a clear distinction is made between that group and property developers.
“We have already pointed out this completely unacceptable anomaly that has working farmland on the edges of towns subject to this Zoned Land Tax,” he said.
“It is so obviously unfair, unworkable and such an over-reach that provision will simply have to be made and everyone — local authorities and farmers — will be spared this absolute minefield.”