Monday 19 March 2018

Labour demands deadline change for home tax

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

THE Labour Party is standing by its demand that homeowners shouldn't have to pay next year's property tax bill this month.

Tensions within the Coalition continue to simmer over the pre-Christmas property tax grab, with Fine Gael and Labour deeply divided.

A compromise, being proposed by Labour, is understood to suggest separating the date by which householders must tell the Revenue Commissioners how they will pay the tax – and the date by which the tax must be paid.

The confusion, sparked by a letter from Revenue to almost one million householders, deepened further yesterday when a minister said homeowners can signal how they are paying now and then make a single payment by January 1 – provided it was via a third-party outlet, such as An Post or Payzone.

The Cabinet is due to discuss the controversy over the property tax at its meeting tomorrow.

Fine Gael is backing the Revenue's policy, claiming there are up to six ways to avoid paying the property tax until next year.

But the Government is likely to tell Revenue to improve its efforts to explain the various payment options to the public.

Despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny backing the Revenue Commissioners' controversial property tax collection, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is standing by his call for the tax authorities to "reconsider the deadline".

The property tax was only applied for

six months this year, so 2014 will be the first year the tax will be levied for a full 12 months.

Almost a million homeowners have just weeks to sort out how to pay their property tax bill for 2014.

But there is widespread confusion about why compliant taxpayers are being asked to pay a tax in 2013 that isn't due until 2014.

Payment using a credit or debit card or via cheque is due by November 27.

The early payment comes because Revenue says it has to deduct the funds straight away once a homeowner gives their card details or sends a cheque.

Labour sources say the issue matters because it affects 60pc of homeowners who paid the property tax in 2013 by card or cheque.

"The vast majority of people who paid in 2013 did so by a single payment. It's not just a fringe option," a senior party source said.

The junior Coalition partner is suggesting the link be broken between confirming the type of payment and actually paying the bill.

"There's no reason they can't decouple the method of payment and when you pay. By the 27th of November, you'd still say how you're going to pay and then pay in January," a senior source close to Mr Gilmore said.

"The Tanaiste acknowledges the independence of the Revenue and is also still of the view he expressed on Friday about the single payment."

Mr Gilmore said last Friday he believed Revenue should "reconsider the deadline" for those making the one-off payment by cheque or card.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar claimed a homeowner making a single payment could do so later.

"What you can do is indicate on the form that you are going to pay by cash or credit card but you don't have to do that now. You can go into a Payzone outlet, for example, and pay by your credit card later in the year or early January," he said.

Mr Gilmore said that in the run-up to Christmas it probably was something the Revenue "should look at again".

His spokesman said the "big advantage" of the October Budget was that it gave consumers some certainty heading into Christmas.

Adding to the criticism of the Revenue's handling of the issue, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said the letter sent to homeowners was written in "quite a technical way".

She urged homeowners not to pay via a single payment this month and to use the alternatives.

"It would be a bit silly of someone, in my view, to pay their tax in advance, unless they actually have a lot of cash," she said.

Fine Gael sources said greater levels of communication would probably be required.

"The legislation says the tax falls due on January 1. You can't change that. What probably does need to happen is more communication," a minister said.

But the Taoiseach has backed the Revenue's right to implement taxes as they see fit – though he fell short of criticising Mr Gilmore.

Fionnan Sheahan

Irish Independent

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