Q&A Dominic Coyle

Paying property tax at the credit union

I read your article in The Irish Times. You did not deal with the issue that many people who only deal with credit unions have. Why should somebody paying [their property tax] in full with a credit-union cheque pay on November 7th, according to the Revenue form ( now changed to January 1st), and somebody paying in full directly from a bust bank (AIB) have until March 21st, nearly four months later?

It is not a function of Revenue to question why one taxpayer uses AIB and the neighbour uses the local credit union. As of now, both are not treated equally.

The Revenue says it cannot hold details of credit/debit cards because of data-protection rules. How then can they keep bank account details from direct-debit mandate forms? Surely the same rules should apply.

If you cut through the bull, the Revenue is saying you can pay any way you like as long as it's the way we want.

Mr L O'H, email

Can't keep credit unions out of the news these days. You're right, of course, that credit-union members are more restricted in how they can pay their local property tax – if they have no other account. Effectively, you are down to a lump-sum payment by cheque (payable on or before January 1st) or phased payments in cash – unless you go for deduction at source. Cash payments can be done weekly, or monthly, at any post office, via Payzone outlets or on Omnivend machines. Each carries a cost, with monthly An Post payments the most economical.

The good news is that in a deal announced last week, credit unions will shortly be able to make electronic payments. The Central Bank granted a "payment institution licence" to the Credit Union Service Organisation for Payments (Cusop), which will allow credit unions to provide electronic payment services to members – ironically via Danske Bank which is cutting its own personal customers loose.

Cusop chief executive Kevin O’Donovan tells me the process should begin rolling out in February, with 100 credit unions getting the capability next year and a further 100 in 2015.

Initially, members will be able to make single electronic payments – such as the one you refer to at AIB. Mr O’Donovan expects that, down the line, the system should be able to facilitate regular payments, such as direct debits.

On your other points, Revenue’s inability to hold on to bank details is not undermined by its use of direct debits. Those details are processed immediately with the relevant bank and are not retained so the same rules do apply.

It’s not a function of Revenue to ask how one person pays as against another and they have not done so. They have offered seven options, ensuring that everyone in the State has more than one available. On that basis, I think your final thought is wide of the mark.

This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. Please send your questions to Q&A, c/o Dominic Coyle, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St, D2, or dcoyle@irishtimes.com