Saturday 14 December 2019

Kim Bielenberg: An Irishman’s home was once his castle – now it’s his tumbledown shack

A NEW form of inverted snobbery will be rife across the country this year.

Householders will want to convince the Revenue that their home is only an old kip.

With the arrival of the property tax, homeowners will be keen to undervalue their houses, so that they pay a much lower rate of tax.

The Revenue will shortly send out notices to homeowners about the tax giving an “indicative value”.

But householders will still be able to “self assess” their homes. How many of these valuations will be realistic?

Where once an Irishman’s home was his castle, or at the very least a “luxury executive home”, now it will be little more than a tumbledown shack.

The wheel has turned full circle since the boom. Now that the Revenue inspectors may come knocking, we will take a less rosy view of our property.

The elegant “garden roof terrace” will become a leaking flat-roofed extension that was thrown up in a jiffy. Sure, you’d want to be mad to sit out there in the rain.

And, for the purposes of valuation, the “home office suite” just next to a bed of dandelions will revert to being a “garden shed”, used to store a few old tins of Ronseal and a rusty bicycle.

At some point in the last two decades even the most cramped one roomed unit, where you flushed the toilet and water came out of the tap, became known in auctioneers’ purple prose as an “apartment”.

It conjured up images of spacious living overlooking New York’s Central Park

Now, when the taxman comes calling, that luxury apartment will surely revert to being a “flat”. Or, if you really want to knock the price down, why not call it a “bedsit”?

I am told that the “penthouse”, which until recently was the aspiration of every high-flying would-be tycoon, has suddenly become unfashionable as a result of the property tax.

Now, that top floor flat, enjoying extensive views of the Mad Cow Roundabout, will be described in all literature in less glowing terms as a “garret”. Who could possibly pay tax while living in a garret?

Those who live in the hundreds of unfinished housing developments across the country will not have to pay the property tax.

I am sure at least a few householders in less deserving, finished developments will tell property tax inspectors: “Have you seen my ghost estate? It’s frightening. There’s tumbleweed growing in the bathroom.”

Of course, we should all take our cue from farmers in trying to keep our property tax liabilities as low as possible.

Buildings that are deemed to be for “agricultural use” will of course be exempt.

Who knows where this exemption could lead? In a short time, we could see a trend for keeping Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs in living rooms across the suburbs, as homeowners tell inspectors: “My house – it’s only a pig pen.”

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