Saturday 17 March 2018

Questions Answered: How do I get my water refund and how much will this cost the state?

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Stock picture
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Most households will receive a refund if they previously paid their water charges. However people who use 'excessive' amounts of water face being hit with bills in future. Here is everything you need to know about getting your refund:

Why are water charge refunds being issued?

Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

An all-party Oireachtas Committee on the funding of water services agreed that water charges are to be scrapped except in cases of excessive use.

The committee’s examination of the divisive issue came about under the terms of the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that saw the establishment of the minority Government.

With water charges effectively having been axed, it has been decided that people who paid will get refunds, so they’re treated the same as those who didn’t pay the charges.

So refunds are to be sent to householders that paid water charges – how much will I get in the post?

Households with more than one occupant spent up to €325 on water charges if they paid all five bills during the time they were in existence.

For single occupant households the sum was up to €200. Those who paid some or all of the bills – around 990,000 households – can expect all of their money back.

when will the refund arrive?

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy – who has responsibility for water – has said the vast majority of people will get their cheque in the post before the end of the year. There may be some people who have changed address that might not get the cheque until early next year, but Mr Murphy says he expects this number to be “small”.

I paid by direct debit. Why are they sending me a cheque, can’t they just refund my account?

Mr Murphy says that the simplest thing to do is to send a cheque. He says refunding accounts would require a bespoke IT system which would add to the Government’s administrative costs.

What do I have to do to claim my refund?

If your circumstances haven’t changed – ie you haven’t moved house since you paid your water charges – you don’t have to do anything. The cheque is to go in the post automatically and the minister says it should come “as quickly as possible”.

What if I have moved house?

Then you’ll have to contact Irish Water to let them know your new address. Mr Murphy has promised that Irish Water will be starting an information campaign shortly to tell people how they can do this.

What about the €100 I got when I applied for the Water Conservation Grant? Will that be deducted from my refund?

You’ll get to keep that €100. Mr Murphy said that if it was to be deducted from the overall refund the Government would be “penalising people for paying their water bills”. That wouldn’t comply with the terms of the Oireachtas Committee that state that all householders must be treated equally.

So is this all done and dusted, the refunds are being sent out?

Well that’s the plan. Sending out refunds will require the Dáil to pass legislation. Mr Murphy says if this happens by the middle of October, the refunds will go out by the end of the year.

How much will this all cost the State?

Mr Murphy says that it will be €173m for the refunds alone. A further €5m is to go on administration costs, though the Government has an additional €1m contingency if it costs more. Because water charges won’t be paid this year, the Government will have to give Irish Water €114m so that it can continue to operate. So overall – just under €300m in total.

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