Does having owned a home in the US bar us from Help to Buy scheme?

Q&A: Irish national now back home wants to avail of first-time buyers’ initiative

Once you have owned property anywhere, you are no longer classified as a first-time buyer for the purposes of the Irish Revenue. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Once you have owned property anywhere, you are no longer classified as a first-time buyer for the purposes of the Irish Revenue. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

I’m an Irish national who has just this year moved back to Ireland. My wife is American and we now call Ireland home for our family.

We are renting at the moment but we are moving into a new house when it’s completed – in April or May 2017. As we owned and sold a property (private residence) in the US jointly, can you tell us if we qualify for the Help-to-Buy scheme? Would we be considered first-time buyers in Ireland? I have never owned as much as a shed in Ireland!

Mr B O’S, email

The bad news is that you will not be considered first-time buyers. Once you have owned property anywhere, you are no longer classified as a first-time buyer for the purposes of the Irish Revenue.

The fact that you have never owned anything in this country is irrelevant. Your ownership of the US home disqualifies you from any benefit available to first-time buyers – including the Help to Buy scheme.

There was some talk earlier in the passage of the Finance Bill that, in order to facilitate an increasingly mobile and international workforce, some special provision might be made for people buying here for the first time but that would have created a real mess in terms of different groups of people facing different rules.

The issue has cropped up previously in relation to lower stamp duty which used to apply to first-time buyers on home purchases. No latitude was given then to those who had owned property elsewhere and the rules will be the same for the purposes of the Help to Buy scheme.

Could you fudge it? It’s not advisable. Effectively you are then lying to Revenue and, coming from the US, you’ll realise the potential downside of that. And, of course, there is now much greater sharing of information between tax authorities across national boundaries precisely to catch such hidden gems.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or by email to dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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