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State preparing to abolish key property tax incentive

The Government has moved a step closer to taking a decision on abolishing Section 23 tax relief that will have harsh consequences for small property investors and big earners.

Figures compiled by the Department of Finance show that 45pc of all claims for this tax relief came from individuals earning less than €100,000 a year and who mainly invested in houses and apartments built as part of urban and rural schemes.

The high rollers -- or those earning more than €275,000 -- tended to make bigger investments in schemes such as hotels and nursing homes and bought relatively few houses around Ireland.

There are no firm statistics on how many people actually invested in these properties that were sold at a premium because investors were getting generous tax breaks.

The department only records the number of claims that have been made. In many cases, groups of people came together to buy these properties and would all make separate claims for relief against their income tax.


Between 2004 and 2008, the department says, there were 74,003 claims for this tax relief.

But when owner-occupiers -- who are not affected by any potential changes -- are stripped out, the number of tax claims falls to 59,155.

The biggest amount of money invested was in urban renewal properties, hotels and student accommodation with almost €3.2bn of claims made for these schemes. That is about 50pc of all claims for property tax relief.

The urban generation schemes -- that triggered wide-scale property development across Ireland -- were the most successful in terms of attracting investors and accounted for 15,700, or 27pc, of total claims.

Claims for tax relief in hotels, student accommodation, seaside resorts and rural renewal developments are also high, with 44pc of all claims coming from people earning less than €100,000 a year.

About 20pc of claims were from those earning more than €275,000, according to the department.

By engaging in a consultation process, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and his officials are hoping to learn more about how changes to these last remaining property tax incentives will affect these investors.

It is also a response to the huge opposition to the measure when it was first announced, with TDs from all parties objecting to the U-turn.

Investors are being asked to suggest alternative policy proposals to minimise the cost to the State, among other issues, and a report will be compiled for Mr Noonan in the autumn.

Irish Independent