Handling of property tax exemptions a ‘mess’

Seán Sherlock says a more thorough examination of unfinished estates needed

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock. “If you were to bring people into the local property tax then it has to be done on the basis that those estates are complete. You need a consistency across the country.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock. “If you were to bring people into the local property tax then it has to be done on the basis that those estates are complete. You need a consistency across the country.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 22:05

A Coalition Minister has admitted the Government made a “mess” of how it handled the announcement of which estates would be exempt from the property tax.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock was also critical of the process under which exempt households dropped sharply by 38,000 down to 5,300.

He argued a more thorough examination was needed of some estates where formerly exempt households have become liable for the tax, which comes into effect on July 1st.

The revised list was announced last week by the Department of Environment. However, as Minister for Local Government Phil Hogan was abroad on Government duty, it became the responsibility of Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan, a Labour TD, to defend the changes amid some contention.

While Fine Gael has defended the much smaller number of exemptions – Taoiseach Enda Kenny described it on Saturday as “realistic and accurate” – the change and manner of announcement has been criticised from some quarters in the Labour Party.

Mr Sherlock pointed to estates where say two of three phases had been completed. In that scenario, he said, households in the first two phases were liable to pay the tax because they might have basic services such as pavements and public lighting, while households in the uncompleted third phase were not because they did not have those services.


Health and safety issues

However, he argued there may be issues in such estates that affected all households, such as health and safety issues for children playing.

“If you were to bring people into the local property tax then it has to be done on the basis that those estates are complete. You need a consistency across the country.”

Separately, it was claimed the exemptions contained so many anomalies they would be vulnerable to successful legal challenge. James Lawless, a Fianna Fáil representative in Kildare said the county council had classed 85 estates as unfinished, yet none had appeared on the list last week.

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