•WHAT is the household charge being introduction on January 1 next?
The Government committed last November in the EU/IMF bailout to introducing a property tax in 2012 and water charges by 2013.
The property tax is supposed to be based on the value of the site, but until the Government comes up with a system of deciding how much sites are worth, an interim charge -- called a household charge -- is being introduced.
•How much will it be, and who will pay?
Every household in the country will be hit with the same charge, regardless of whether they live in a mansion or a one-bedroom apartment. The charge is likely to be around €200.
•What will happen with the money?
It's supposed to be ringfenced to pay for local authority services like the fire service, libraries and street lighting. But some of the money may be used to pay for the installation of water meters.
•So what's happening with water meters and charges? Will I pay a flat fee, or be billed on how much I use?
It is hoped that the State's 1.4 million homes will have meters within three years. But the EU/IMF deal says charges must be introduced by 2013. The Government says it will decide then if, and how much, unmetered homes should pay.
•Does that mean I may end up paying while my cousin in the next parish doesn't?
•Why doesn't the Government just admit that the charge is a tax on water and property?
It can't. In the run-up to the election, Fine Gael said it would not charge people for water until meters were installed even though it knew about the EU/IMF 2013 deadline. It might end up charging a flat rate, but it doesn't want to admit that.
•Why all this confusion?
Fine Gael's Phil Hogan announced the changes early on Tuesday morning, insisting households would only be hit with one new tax, the household charge. By Tuesday evening, he had admitted that two charges were coming down the line -- the property tax, and water charges.
Yesterday, Labour leader and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said there was no agreement at cabinet for the charge. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the amount households would pay had yet to be decided.
•So when will I know how much money to put aside to pay these bills?
The Government has to tell the EU/IMF in the autumn how much the household charge will be for 2012 so there should be certainty then. But be warned, it's going to rise in 2013 -- the same year water charges come in.