Timing of housing charge crackdown 'a political stunt'
THOUSANDS of household charge enforcement notices will start to be posted within a fortnight as the Government was accused of "a political stunt" in stalling the issue until after the local and European elections.
The crackdown will involve letters being issued to the estimated 250,000 property owners nationwide that the Revenue Commissioners says failed to pay the original household charge.
The enforcement measure is being handled between Revenue and Cork firm Abtran, which deals with many of its back-office functions on a contract basis.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that the majority of the letters will not be issued until after the May 23 Local and European Parliament vote.
One source indicated that the majority of the letters have been finalised but will not start to be issued until sometime after May 28.
Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty and Cllr Chris O'Leary expressed concern over the fact that a measure that was flagged months ago was suddenly not going to happen until after the May 23 ballot.
"It certainly smacks of a measure aimed at trying to minimise the obvious fallout for the coalition parties of the consequences of one of their controversial policies," Mr O'Leary said.
However, TD Jerry Buttimer (FG), in whose constituency Abtran is located, dismissed the claims as "yet more SF story-spinning".
"Revenue is absolutely independent of Government. Administration matters are entirely an issue for them and there is no government input whatsoever," he said.
Last month, Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily confirmed it was in the process of sending out the letters.
"Anybody who has not paid the charge, we will find them. There is an inevitability about this," she said.
Last night, Abtran declined to comment on the timing of the letters issue, saying any enquiries should be addressed to Revenue.
The new crackdown will involve letters being issued to all property owners that Revenue estimates have not paid.
The €100 flat-rate charge, which was in place for 2012, was later replaced by the local property tax.
Householders who never paid the flat-rate charge now face paying €213 with penalties and interest added.