Property tax legislation passed
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan rejected repeated opposition claims of insufficient time to discuss the Finance Local Property Tax Amendment Bill
Changes to the controversial property tax legislation were passed late last night by 62 votes to 41 after two-and-half hours of discussion at committee stage and heated exchanges throughout the day.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan rejected repeated opposition claims of insufficient time to discuss the Finance Local Property Tax Amendment Bill and claimed debate on the legislation last week would have collapsed had the Government Chief Whip not put in more coalition speakers.
He stressed the Government's decision that the tax would be paid based on the market value of the family home on the basis of self-assessment and those who have an inability to pay may defer.
"All we're asking is to put a value on it and if it a resident is seriously impacted by the activity of the householder, whether its farming or business ...and if that reduces the value, that will be reflected in the self assessment and it's up to people what value they attribute to the house," he told TDs. They could get guidance from the Revenue, he said.
On issues such as flooding, pyrite damage and radon, he said it was reasonable when returning the self assessment form to the Revenue Commissioners to allow for the fact that the house is subject to flooding and it affected the value. But he disagreed with some claims that houses were worth nothing.
"If you were (kept) awake at night by the neighbour's cows looking over the wall at you it would impair the value of your house...and if there's a silage pit in the yard it impairs the value of your house as well.
"But to say the house is worth nothing is ridiculous because I met no farmer yet who offered to give away his house to me... and if it's worth nothing you'd be meeting them every day on the road and they'd say I've a house for you Michael. Here is it for you. Its only costing me money. So we shouldn't exaggerate the position."
Mr Noonan was speaking late at night following a row on the legislation that raged for most of the day yesterday in the Dáil. He said there had been a further hour on second stage speeches with no debate on the amendments with some honourable exceptions.
The Bill, which amends the property tax legislation passed in December, allows for a number of deferrals, exemptions and penalties for non-compliance, including exemptions for homes affected by pyrite, where the market value of the property is effectively zero.
The Minister, who earlier accused opposition TDs of "grandstanding" on the legislation, pointed out that the original Bill had been passed in December and the debate about the introduction of the tax based on market value was over. It had been decided and passed into law, he said.
Mr Noonan also defended the introduction of the tax for local authority housing. He said the maximum they would pay this year was 45 and 90 in a full year for the next three years.
He said local authorities were buying in private housing estates.
"How can I introduce a tax where everybody on a mortgage is paying the property tax on the estate and a person who is the tenant of the local authority is not paying anything?" he said.
He also rejected an argument for taxing houses on property on more than one acre. Mr Noonan said the definition was in accordance with what applied in capital gains tax, including the curtilage of the house up to an acre.
Independent TD Mick Wallace pointed out that if two or three houses in an estate were certified as having pyrite then the chances of other houses having pyrite were extremely high because the houses were built together.
Mr Noonan said that was a matter for the Department of the Environment to decide, but he said in different estates different sources of cement were used and weather conditions at the time of building would have an impact.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae appealed for homes affected by radon to be exempt from the tax because of the impact on their value.
Mr Noonan said he was relying on the technical advice of experts, but it was his understanding that houses affected by the gas could have remediation work done relatively inexpensively and a test for the gas was only 56.
The legislation now goes to the Seanad.