Review ordered into tax reliefs for owners of historic homes

Section 482 review follows high-profile cases of ‘big houses’ in trouble

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys announced the review of the tax breaks allowed to the owners of historic houses. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys announced the review of the tax breaks allowed to the owners of historic houses. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Government has announced a review of the tax breaks allowed to the owners of historic houses.

Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, allows owners of so-called big houses tax relief on repairing, maintaining and restoring their properties.

A condition of the scheme is that the property be open to the public for a minimum numbers of days each year, or in use as a registered guest house.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys announced the review. It was recommended in An Action Plan for the Sustainable Future of the Irish Historic House in Private Ownership, published in 2015.

The cost of maintaining historic properties has led to a number of high-profile cases of the owners of historic homes getting into financial difficulty.

The Alfred Beit Foundation, which runs Russborough House in Co Wicklow, was forced to sell €7 million worth of its old-master paintings from the Beit collection because of its ongoing financial difficulties.

Westport House

In January, Westport House, the home of the Browne family for 300 years, was sold to the Hughes family locally, though there was pressure on the State to buy the house and grounds.

The Hughes family has pledged to keep it open to the public and to invest €50 million in it as a tourism attraction.

There have also been calls for the State to buy Luggala Lodge and estate in Co Wicklow, which is on the market for €28 million. Its owner, Garech Browne, is selling up because he seldom spends time there now.

The Minister’s spokeswoman said the action plan made it clear the State did not have the resources or the desire to acquire these properties.

Instead, she said, the Minister was interested in finding ways to make Section 482 relief suitable for estate owners.

“She wants to know what the State can do to try and assist more, recognising how important these heritage properties are,” she said.

The review is being undertaken by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Finance, with support from the Revenue Commissioners.

Interested parties are invited to make submissions. The closing date for submissions is March 24th.