Kenny and Gilmore at odds over handling of property tax payment
Tánaiste asks Revenue to reconsider approach while Taoiseach backs its strategy
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “The Government decides what policy is.” Photograph: Eric Luke
There has been a marked variance in the responses of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to the controversy surrounding a requirement for early payment of property tax for 2014.
Over the weekend, Mr Kenny declined to follow Mr Gilmore’s criticism of the Revenue Commissioners’ approach to the tax, instead backing the right of Revenue to implement the tax as it saw fit.
Speaking at the Fine Gael presidential dinner in Dublin on Saturday night, Mr Kenny said nobody would have to pay their property tax for next year until 2014.
He pointedly did not follow the line of Mr Gilmore, who has called on the Revenue to take another look at the payment deadlines.
“The Government decides what policy is; the Revenue Commissioners implement and enforce that policy,” Mr Kenny told journalists.
“Nobody, and I repeat nobody, is required to pay the 2014 property tax in 2013 but I would encourage as many people as possible to use the options, of which there are up to six, to ensure that they pay their property tax in 2014.”
Asked directly about Mr Gilmore’s comments, the Taoiseach said: “The Tánaiste reflects the opinion that the Government and the Dáil are an entirely separate matter. Government decides what policy is.
“The Dáil legislates for that policy and the Revenue Commissioners, an entirely independent body and rightly so, implements that policy,” he said.
Earlier Mr Gilmore urged Revenue to reconsider its approach to how the local property tax was to be collected from a large proportion of those liable.
There has been increasing concern in recent days that homeowners who opt to pay the tax for 2014 by debit or credit card or cheque will have to pay the entire amount upfront before the end of November.
The spokesman said the Tánaiste believed that if the property tax was a 2014 tax, then it should be paid in 2014 and not this month – as is required under current arrangements – if paying by these methods.
The intervention by Mr Gilmore this weekend came in the wake of widespread criticism from taxpayers wishing to make a single payment by card or cheque for the tax in 2014, the first year the property tax will be levied for a full year. It was only applied for six months this year.
The Revenue Commissioners has cited data protection requirements – which it says restrict it from retaining credit/debit card details for longer than necessary to process and validate the payment – as the reason why it cannot postpone these payments until January.
As things stand, if paying in a lump sum using a cheque, credit or debit card, the sum is deducted immediately.
It can be paid in one go by next March if a special direct debit is set up. It can also be paid in instalments next year by direct debit or via deductions from salary, pension, social welfare or the single farm payment.
The Tánaiste became involved in the controversy, said his spokesman, because he believed it was a question of equity and fairness.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, also speaking at the weekend, said the issue was “another example of incompetence by the Government”.