Now Tanaiste calls for Revenue U-turn on home 'tax grab'
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has piled the pressure on the Revenue Commissioners to abandon their pre-Christmas tax grab on homeowners.
Revenue have controversially told almost a million homeowners to pay their property tax bill for 2014 by November 27 if they are paying by credit, debit card or cheque.
But Government politicians, including the Tanaiste, have now joined the chorus of calls for a re-think.
Mr Gilmore said he believed Revenue should "reconsider the deadline" for those making the one-off payment by cheque or card. He said that in the run-up to Christmas it probably was something the Revenue "should look at again".
Reiterating Mr Gilmore's position, the Tanaiste's spokesman said the "big advantage" of the October Budget was that it gave consumers some certainty heading into Christmas.
"This is something that could have a chilling effect on consumer sentiment," the spokesman added.
Revenue are insisting that there are other instalment payment methods to avoid paying before Christmas, but the tax authorities are being accused of leaving homeowners "confused" with their instructions.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar criticised the commissioners for failing to explain why homeowners have to pay next year's property tax before Christmas.
Mr Varadkar admitted that even he was "confused" by the Revenue's
controversial letter to almost one million property owners this week.
Mr Varadkar objected to homeowners being asked to pay a tax in 2013 that is not due to be paid until 2014.
"My basic view is a tax that falls due in 2014 should be paid in 2014," he said.
Retailers warned that the demand could threaten fragile consumer confidence just as they enter the most important time of the year for sales.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce spokesman Andrew Smyth said it was "definitely" a concern for shopkeepers.
"Retailers tell us that a huge bulk of their trade for the full year is done in the November and December period in the run-up to Christmas," he said.
However, despite growing anger over the pre-Christmas demands, Revenue and the Department of Finance said there were no plans to extend the deadlines for payment of the property tax.
Revenue defended its handling of the issue and said there was no change on the cards, while the Department of Finance said it was a matter for Revenue.
But coalition backbenchers are calling for the deadline for payment to be extended.
Fine Gael TD John-Paul Phelan said his constituency office in Kilkenny had been inundated with calls from householders alarmed by the letter, and that the payment timescale needed to be extended into at least the start of next year.
He added: "The letter was far from clear. It's disappointing, considering the property tax has gone so well, that this is a botched job."
Last night, Revenue said homeowners did not have to pay their 2014 local property tax before Christmas as they had options to pay next year.
"We are asking you to let us know what payment method you wish to choose so that we can have the range of payment options set up in good time for next year. All the letter asks is that you state what payment option you wish to choose," a spokesperson said.
Revenue said there were several different payment methods from which homeowners could choose, whereby deductions would not begin until 2014. These include:
* Pay in full by single debit authority, which will be debited by Revenue on March 21.
* Spread payments evenly throughout 2014 by direct debit or deduction from salary, pension or government payment, starting on January 15.
* Make regular payments throughout 2014.
"You need to tell Revenue now so that these payment options can be set up in good time for next year," the spokesperson added.
However, those paying by credit or debit card or cheques will have to pay the tax immediately, and so will have paid their 2013 and 2014 LPT in the same year.
Most people paid their property tax bill by card or cheque this year, rather than paying in installments, so Revenue has sent letters to these 960,000 once-off-payment homeowners.
It said: "Revenue does not retain credit/debit card details for longer than is necessary to process and validate the payment and therefore cannot postpone the deduction of LPT until 2014 for this payment method.
"However, there is no need to pay by debit/credit card. We have designed the administration of this tax in such a manner as to ensure there are numerous payment methods from which you can choose to best suit your circumstances."
Fionnan Sheahan and Breda Heffernan