Property tax break for 18,000 who can't repay home loans
ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has signalled that people in serious mortgage difficulty may be given an exemption from property tax.
There are currently 18,000 people receiving state aid to help repay their mortgages.
Mr Hogan said he had given them an exemption from the €100 household charge this year and would be taking them into account for the property tax. It was "not easy" for families who could not pay their mortgages, he said.
"I realise full well that people are under pressure and this will be taken into account in any budgetary proposal made by the Government," he added.
The mortgage interest supplement is provided for people who are unable to repay the interest owed on their homes. The average annual payout received last year was just over €3,500 and the total cost to the State was €65m.
Mr Hogan did not make any reference to any other possible property tax exemptions, such as for those on low incomes or those who paid high stamp duty during the property boom.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hogan said that the issue of exempting people in mortgage difficulties from the property tax was a matter for the Budget.
The tax is due to be introduced next July and will be collected by the Revenue Commissioners.
The Revenue refused to comment on reports that it was planning to get individual householders to nominate themselves as the person responsible for paying the property tax.
This would mean that a husband or wife in a PAYE job would have to decide which of them would have the tax deducted from their pay. And it would require employees to give permission to employers to make the deduction.
The self-employed and farmers are expected to be required to declare and pay the tax as part of their annual tax return.
A Revenue spokeswoman said more information would be available when the Government made its decisions on the property tax.
In the Dail, Mr Hogan was accused of "waffling" by Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen after he refused to confirm that local authorities would immediately be given the power to increase the tax in their area to fund services. But he suggested that it would be possible in the future.
"Councillors should also have an opportunity to vary this tax, upwards or downwards as the case may be, in the context of proper devolution of responsibility," he said.
Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley called on Mr Hogan to publish the expert group report on the tax, which was completed more than five months ago.
"Michael Collins, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Minister for Finance, was more open in such matters than the minister opposite," he said.