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FF opposes property tax plans -- for now

FIANNA Fail will oppose the property tax -- despite proposing one when in government itself -- because it is the wrong time to bring it in, leader Micheal Martin said yesterday.

He also said his party would oppose any cuts to pensioner entitlements, such as changes to the free travel scheme.

Mr Martin was speaking at his party's pre-Dail think-in in Sutton, Co Dublin, and said the tax could not raise €500m as the Coalition hoped.

Mr Martin also said Fianna Fail still believed there should be €3.5bn in cuts and taxes next year, but did not say how the gap caused by deferring the property tax could be made up.

The party would release its own Budget proposals in the coming months, he added.

Mr Martin said the "capacity to pay" by people in the "squeezed middle" is now much lower than it was when his party proposed a property tax.

A "site value tax" was included in the four-year plan unveiled by the FF-Green government in November 2010, and it was also in the party's election manifesto last year.

"I would accept the basic principle that property tax is an important part of a broader-based tax situation but in the present circumstances, I don't think it's possible to raise €500m in a property tax.

"The squeezed middle are finding it extremely difficult to cope now," Mr Martin added.

"Many pensioners would say they're in the squeezed middle," he said, while criticising weekend comments from Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes that well-off pensioners could be targeted for Budget cutbacks.

Irish Independent