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Phil Hogan gets go-ahead to use bills for tax-dodger hunt


ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan is set to use the information on ESB bills to catch household-charge dodgers after data protection concerns were addressed.

So far, just 200,000 of the 1.6 million liable households have paid the €100 charge, with the March 31 deadline just weeks away.

Mr Hogan's department is now confident that it will be granted access to the records of householders' names and addresses held by the ESB following discussions with the Data Protection Commissioner.

Other sources of information which will be used to identify those dodging the charge will include the databases of the Revenue, the Department of Social Protection and the second-home tax records held by the local authorities.

Last night, Sinn Fein environment spokesman Brian Stanley said the plan to use peoples' utility bills showed how panicked the Government had become.

"This is the clearest evidence yet that Minister Hogan is losing the household-charge battle. It is time he binned this unfair charge," he said.

But Mr Hogan is insistent that he is going ahead with the household charge -- and has ruled out extending the March 31 deadline.

He has also argued that any shortfall in the €160m target for the scheme will result in local authorities having to cut back their services. A national radio campaign is currently running which promotes the payment of the tax as being essential to maintain local services.

People in ghost estates and those on mortgage-interest supplement will get a waiver from the charge, while those living in council estates will be exempt. Fines for those who won't pay can be deducted from their wages or social welfare payments.

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