Data-sharing tool to help State track non-payers


A MECHANISM to allow for the transfer of information from entities including the Department of Social Protection, the ESB and the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of the household charge will be in place by the end of the week, the Department of the Environment has said.

A spokesman for the department said negotiations with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner would be completed shortly and protocols to allow the transfer of data would be in place by the March 31st payment deadline.

So far, only 20 per cent, or just over 328,000 households, have paid, or registered to pay, the new €100 household charge.

Some €32.8 million has been collected, but the Government anticipated total revenue would be €160 million.

The new protocols will establish the conditions under which information gathered from entities including the ESB and the Revenue Commissioners can be accessed and handled. It will allow for “scrubbed” data, free from information other than name and address, to be shared with the Department of the Environment for the purposes of tracking down individuals who fail to pay the charge by the deadline.

The entitlement of the State to seek information from utilities companies was built into the Household Charge Act 2011.

The legislation includes a waiver from the charge for homeowners entitled to mortgage interest supplement from the Department of Social Protection and for owners of houses in unfinished housing estates.

Those who already pay the €200 non-principal private residence charge will also be liable for the household charge.

About 3,000 protesters took part in a demonstration at the weekend in the National Stadium in Dublin against the charge, organised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes.

The event was addressed by TDs including Joe Higgins and Clare Daly of the Socialist Party. People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins were among those present.

A Department of the Environment spokesman said the department recognised people’s right to protest, but was still hopeful the majority of householders “who wish to be legally compliant and to avoid incurring unnecessary late payment fees and penalties” would register and pay before the closing date.

He also said there was a plan in place post March 31st and local authorities would be “active on the ground”.

They would have access to those already registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board and those who registered for the non-principal private residence charge last year.

Some authorities who still collect household waste would have access to that data, the spokesman added. They would also know who had paid the charge, and could “just take a street and start knocking on doors”.

However, they would not be allowed to use the register of electors for the purposes of collecting the charge, he said.

Green Party spokesman on the environment, Kilkenny councillor Malcolm Noonan, said local authority staff should not be asked to call to households.

“Local authorities throughout the country are already under strain due to understaffing,” he said. “Expecting these authorities to allocate officials to register households could put staff in danger due to the level of anger that exists about how this charge was devised.”

He said the issue was one of the most divisive in recent memory.

“Minister [for the Environment] Phil Hogan’s position will be untenable if revenue falls well below target as now seems most likely,” he said.