Earlier payment date for tax on second homes criticised


PEOPLE WITH a second home will end up paying the new €200 charge twice within a year as the date for next year’s payment has been brought forward to May, it emerged at the Joint Committee on the Environment yesterday.

The fee, which goes to local authorities, applies to people who own a property that is not their sole or main residence.

October 31st was the final date for payment this year, but the 2010 charge will have to be met before May 31st next.

Fine Gael’s Padraic McCormack, who chaired the meeting, criticised the bringing forward of the payment date. He said people who paid the €200 charge in October expected that they would not have to pay it again for another 12 months.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” he told Des Dowling, assistant secretary in the Department of the Environment. “That will be challenged.”

Mr Dowling explained that the payment date was late this year as it took time to introduce the scheme. Payment fell due on September 31st, with one month’s grace before penalties began to mount at a rate of €20 per month.

From 2010 onwards, he said the legislation provided for March 31st as the date on which ownership of the property gave rise to the charge. Payment of the charge would fall due two months later on May 31st, with a further one month’s grace before penalties.

This fitted in better with the financial cycle of local authorities, he said.

Mr McCormack said he believed people would refuse to pay the charge “and they would be justified in doing that in my opinion”.

Others expressed concern at the early payment date and Mr McCormack said the committee would write to Minister for the Environment John Gormley expressing its “very grave concern” at this “double payment”.

The committee heard that, up to Monday, the payment had been made on more than 240,000 properties, raising €48.3 million in local authority revenue.

Mr Dowling told Labour’s Joanna Tuffy that it was difficult to know if every second-home owner had paid the fee. It had originally been estimated that there were about 200,000 second properties in the State but now we knew that there were at least 240,000, he said.

Committee members highlighted cases where they said people were unfairly asked to pay the fee. Fianna Fáil’s Eamon Scanlon pointed to one case where a couple had moved from Limerick to Sligo for work reasons but couldn’t sell their Limerick home and were told that they were liable.

Mr Dowling said the legislation dictated that there could only be one main residence and the fee must be paid if there was a second home. He said the onus was on the homeowner to pay the fee. If the homeowner did not pay the fee, the penalty would continue to increase by the month and the owner would encounter difficulties when the house was being sold.

Earlier, at the request of Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan, the committee agreed to hold a special meeting on the flooding crisis next week to discuss progress on aid distribution.

Mr McCormack said he would ask Mr Gormley, his officials, and Minister of State Martin Mansergh to address the committee.