Noonan silent on property tax


The Minister of Finance has refused to reveal his preference on how the new tax on property tax should be calculated.

Speaking in Limerick today, Michael Noonan said the new tax will be introduced next year, as required under the terms of Ireland’s agreement with the EU-IMF troika.

He would not comment on speculation the tax would be value-based but said the Revenue Commissioners would have responsibility for collecting it due to difficulties experienced in collecting the household charge.

According to Department of the Environment figures, about 600,000 homeowners out of the estimated 1.6 million in the State have yet to register to pay the €100 household charge.

“The detail of the property tax has to be worked out. All that has been decided is that there will be a property tax on family homes and that property tax will be collected by the Revenue Commissioners,” said Mr Noonan. “Of course I have a preference and I’ll be stating it at Cabinet.”

Mr Noonan described the property tax as a budgetary matter and warned Budget 2013 will include tax increases and cuts to services.

“We are still as a country spending a lot more than we collect in taxation and there’s only two possible ways of closing the gap. One is to cut what we spend and the other is to increase taxes.

”It’s very hard on people there’s no doubt that people are paying the price of what happened at the peak of the Celtic Tiger," he said. "I’m not making light of it. The issues are very serious and the burden being put on our fellow citizens is a very serious burden and they are having tough times.

“All I can say is if we stick with it we are going to work our way through it. If we give up half way across the river we will have all the pain and we won’t have the solution either.”

Mr Noonan was speaking at the opening of the new Eason store at the Parkway Shopping Centre in Limerick.

When asked about calls for the immediate release of a letter from the former ECB president Jean Claude Trichet to former finance minister Brian Lenihan that reportedly left Ireland no choice but to accept a bailout, Mr Noonan said Fianna Fáil had plenty of opportunities to publish the letter in the last two years.

“When Fianna Fáil were in government they had plenty of opportunity to publish the letter and plenty of opportunity to show it to any of their colleagues in the parliamentary party who were requesting it. The letter dates from sometime in the autumn of 2010, so that’s quite a while ago,” he said.

He said the Government had decided that all documents will be provided when an investigation into the banking collapse is carried out.

“My view on it is it wouldn’t be appropriate of me to overrule the independence of those that decide on Freedom of Information, but the Government has decided that there will be an inquiry into banking and the events around the bailout.

"All documents will be provided to whatever group or unit or individuals that are conducting that inquiry and again in the usual way it will be a matter for that inquiry to decide what documents they would subsequently publish with that report.”

He said Minister for Public Reform Brendan Howlin intends beginning the inquiry in the autumn but that a decision has yet to be made as to which committee within the Oireachtas will oversee the investigation “or indeed, whether or not it will be an entirely new committee”.

When asked if the Mr Trichet’s letter was threatening Mr Noonan replied: "You can’t take these things out of context. It’s a very firm letter."

He refused to enter the debate on whether or not the Catholic Church should be allowed to lobby the Government on abortion legislation.

He said he did not wish to comment on remarks by the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, who said it would be a retrograde step if the Catholic Church went back to dictating to elected representatives how to address the issue of abortion.

“I’m not being drawn into that particular piece of controversy at the moment,” he said.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson Barry Cowen this evening accused the Government of ‘sleepwalking’ into another 'fiasco' along the lines of the household charge.

“I have serious concerns about any property tax based on the market value of people's homes,” he said.

“Such a system unfairly targets city homeowners and fails to take into account people’s ability to pay. Take for example a pensioner living in one of the more sought-after areas in Dublin. Their home may be valuable, but they have a very low income and simply cannot afford hundreds of euro a year in extra taxes."