Resentment over property tax is palpable

Opinion: First Enda Kenny called it a ‘vampire’ tax, now he says it is a ‘fair’ tax

‘The property tax is a significant factor in the increasing cost-of-living squeeze affecting very many householders.’  Photograph: Getty Images

‘The property tax is a significant factor in the increasing cost-of-living squeeze affecting very many householders.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Wed, May 14, 2014, 00:01

The growing realisation that the coming water tax could amount to €500 per year for a family of four, including two young adults, is adding to huge resentment over the crudely enforced property tax, which has already placed a considerable burden on low- and middle-income households.

The resentment over the property tax is palpable because of the crude fear campaign mounted by the Government – with the Revenue as its agency – to coerce homeowners into paying. A strong cohort amounting to 50 per cent of “one home” owners were boycotting the household tax – the precursor to the property tax – well into 2013. It was only paid then because of the threat of direct deductions, a power incidentally that won’t be available to Irish Water, when it will face an extensive campaign of opposition, including mass non-payment, to bring about its abolition.


Betrayed
In relation to both taxes, hard-pressed householders feel deeply betrayed by both parties in Government, Fine Gael and Labour. Some time back, the property tax was, for Enda Kenny , a “vampire tax” that was “morally unjust and unfair” but now, as Taoiseach, Kenny believes it is both “progressive and fair”.

During the 2011 general election campaign a water tax was for Labour, in opposition, a “Fine Gael hurt” from which it would shield us. Now for Labour in government, it is a matter of inflicting this hurt in a “fair” manner on those who cannot afford it.

Most people see the property tax as another “bankers’ and bondholders’ tax”, part of the general austerity offensive waged against working people, pensioners and the unemployed in order to salvage the financiers from the crash caused by their frenzied gambling in the Irish property bubble.

Government propaganda is that this tax is some kind of progressive measure to “widen” the tax base as if it were to come from pots of gold under the floorboards. That is totally discredited, as the Revenue directs employers, both public and private, to forcibly deduct this tax from those resisting it – not from any secret stash, but from their wages and salaries.

The property tax is a significant factor in the increasing cost-of-living squeeze affecting very many householders. This began five years ago as many people lost their jobs and many more had wage cuts and pension levies imposed as part of a general undermining of the right to a secure job with decent wages and working conditions. This made the burden of high monthly mortgage payments excruciating for many.

A tax on their homes was the last thing they needed, especially where those homes are in deep negative equity, not because people bought mansions but because of the prices that gouging developers charged for average-sized dwellings during the bubble.


Propaganda
At current rates the property tax is designed to bring about €500 million each year. Government propaganda had it this would mean considerable resources for local services. Of course it was false from start to finish, the reality being that the property tax was replacing the local government fund, which was ruthlessly cut. Insult was added to injury when the Minister for the Environment announced that the income from 2013 was diverted to set up Irish Water instead. Robbing Peter to set up Paul to rob poor Peter again!

The Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) grew out of a national campaign against property and water taxes. It involves many campaigners and community activists who are not in any political party and are coming into political activity for the first time, as well as members of the Socialist Party. The AAA is standing 40 candidates in the local elections and is endorsing and actively supporting the Dublin European election campaign of Paul Murphy MEP.

It is calling for these elections to be a referendum against the property tax, the water tax and the cost of living squeeze generally. The AAA is committed to build a new movement to resist the water tax and also campaign for the abolition of the property tax. The election of a wide strata of anti-austerity campaigners can be a platform for these aims and also for progressive taxation on major corporations, the super-rich and a financial transaction tax to make possible major investment in jobs, in public services and in tens of thousands of homes for those experiencing the awful crisis in housing.

This means campaigning to overturn the unequal Ireland through a new movement for working class people that will help build “people power” campaigns and build an alternative to the austerity parties and their unjust taxation policies.


Ruth Coppinger is a Fingal councillor and is the Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party candidate in the Dublin West by election and endorsed by the AAA in Dublin West

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