Revenue faces tough questions on property tax

Finance Committee chairman concerned over premature payment of tax and ‘customer service’

Mon, Nov 4, 2013, 13:43

The Revenue Commissioners have been requested by a powerful Oireachtas Committee to defend their methods for collecting the residential property tax for 2014.

The move comes amid a growing controversy over early payment requests that has led to widespread public criticism and divided both Coalition parties.

The chairman of the all-party Finance Committee Ciarán Lynch has written to the head of Revenue Josephine Feehily requesting her to appear before the committee to discuss the structure, timing and operation of the scheme.

“The purpose of the meeting is to deal with any ambiguities or concerns in regard to the payment of the local property tax, and in some circumstances to establish how the issue of premature payments is dealt with,” he said.

At issue are two of the seven options for a single payment of the tax.

Those who are paying by debit or credit card, and some paying by cheque, are obliged to pay during November 2013 and not in 2014.

This was not about “compliancy” but an issue of “good customer service”, Mr Lynch said today. He said Revenue should listen to concerns of “those who want to pay the tax”.

He expressed concern about premature payment. “It is a very simple principle, payment should be made when payment is actually due”, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. If there were difficulties with this at Revenue he hoped it could be resolve and “if it is a case of tweaking becomes a matter for Government”, he said,

Almost one million households paid using one of those methods this year.

The criticism has been backed by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore who this weekend asked Revenue to reconsider the deadline. He has argued that nobody should pay a 2014 tax in 2013.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined to follow Mr Gilmore’s line this weekend, saying Revenue were entitled to operate the property tax legislation in any way that it saw fit.

There were variances in responses from Government ministers yesterday.

Fine Gael Minister, Leo Varadkar said Revenue had “been explicit in saying you do not have to pay until 2014 and need to keep going out there explaining it”. However he accepted the matter was confusing.

Labour Minister Joan Burton suggested the need for better communication. She said the language used in the letter from Revenue was quite technical and may have confused people.

For its part, Revenue accepted households who pay by credit or debit card must pay by the filing deadline date this month. It cited data protection considerations which prevented it retaining card information.

However, it said if they availed of an alternative method, the tax could be paid in 2014.

“There is no need to pay by card. We designed the administration of this tax to provide as many ways to pay as we could, including lumps sums and phased payments,” said a spokeswoman.

She confirmed that some 30,000 people had already filed successfully and added that while the Revenue had not yet received a formal request to attend the Oireachtas committee hearing, “we have always accepted those invitations in the past”.


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