Nasty Nettle of Property Tax
Deaglán de Bréadún
The political scene is overcome with ennui and sluggishness. The warm weather contributes to a mood where everybody wants to be somewhere else, preferably on a beach with a long, cool drink in hand.
Wolfe Tone: admirer of the ‘men of no property’
(Photograph by Cyril Byrne)
Yet the summer will not be as quiescent as normal. We await the report from “An Bord Snip Nua” which is due anytime in the coming weeks. Then there is the report of the Commission on Taxation which I gather may be coming some time in July.
As I write, I can hear Environment Minister John Gormley on the Dail TV monitor extolling the merits of his new €200 a year tax on second homes. This is the first such measure since the abolition of domestic rates, way back in the mid-70s.
That was a huge issue at the time and one of the platforms on which the Fine Gael-Labour coalition came to power in 1973. Irish people are very possessive and touchy about their property. If you saw the RTE documentary on Cromwell’s land confiscations last Monday night, it helps to explain why (very good programme, though I couldn’t understand why the – otherwise excellent – actor playing Cromwell spoke with an Irish accent.)
Just beforehand, Green Party Communications Minister Eamon Ryan was on Questions and Answers (the second-last show and then we get our Monday nights back) expressing a preference for a Site Value Tax. Dublin South is going to be tough enough for the Greens in the next election without the albatross of a property tax around their necks!
The big quibble about property tax in the past was “ability to pay”. On the other hand, nobody asks you if you have sufficient funds to pay your motor tax. You just pay it, or you’re in trouble. Likewise with PAYE.
Wolfe Tone may have sought to base his movement on the “men of no property” but there are a helluva lot of property-owners in this country – and they nearly all vote. The best chance of getting a property tax on the statute book is (a) to make it very small initially, with the option to increase in in due course and (b) to get cross-party support. The latter does not seem likely.