O’Brien confirms vacant property tax will be introduced in next budget

Revenue is set to give new estimate on vacancy to Government ahead of Budget 2023

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said the Government plans to introduce a vacant property tax in Budget 2023 which could impact on an estimated 137,000 properties.

A commitment to bring in such a tax was given in the Housing for All plan, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

The Housing for All document, which was published in September last year, envisaged the introduction of a vacant property tax from the second quarter of this year.

A vacant designation would be based on data collated by the local property tax.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing in a report it will publish on Tuesday has also recommended such a tax.

“I think there is a lot of merit in a vacant property tax if it’s targeted in the right way - coupled with other things,” Mr O’Brien told Newstalk on Monday.

Any changes would be more than just tax measures, he explained. It was important first to get a clear picture on the level of vacant properties.

“We will see, in every town and village, good properties on the main streets and in the village cores.

“ I’m looking to help that, not just by way of a tax that may be brought forward, but by a grant for homeowners where they would be able to - for first-time buyers and others - be able to get assistance to do those properties up to bring them back into the market,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said more details on this grant would be available in the next few weeks.

Mr O’Brien said while a vacant property tax was needed there would be situations where there were good reasons why homes were vacant, such as the resident being absent due to a long-term illness.

“I don’t think people will want to be taxing people who are in that situation”.

The Minister said that a lot of work had already been put into the project by the Department of Finance and Revenue.

As part of the Local Property Tax review last year, data on vacant properties was collected and was being examined. This is set to be augmented by further data from the recent census.

The figure of 137,000 vacant homes is an estimate from the architect Mel Reynolds and will be contained in the report published on Tuesday.

This report also recommends that the Department of Housing audit of all local authorities to ascertain what data exists on vacancy and dereliction, and suggests sanctions for public bodies that fail to register property assets.

In the coming weeks the Revenue Commissioners will give new figures on vacancy to the Government, ahead of a decision on such a tax as part of Budget 2023.

The debate around vacancy comes at a time when the State is struggling to respond to the twin pressures of the domestic housing crisis and the efforts to house tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

The Coalition has also committed to a new zoned land tax, designed to encourage the construction of housing.

The tax, which will replace the existing vacant site levy, will target any unused land zoned and serviced for housing, regardless of its size.

The new tax will be based on the market value of the land and the rate will be set at 3 per cent.

The committee’s report has said the Government should consider increasing the proposed zoned land tax beyond 3 per cent, “particularly given the current inflationary environment”.