Minister will propose vacant property tax if there is ‘solid basis’ in data

Seanad debates and passes Bill that taxes homes built since 2013 for the first time

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will bring proposals for a tax on empty properties if sufficient data is generated indicating a “solid basis” for such a tax.

The Minister said that to get to such a “potential point, there is real value in getting, once and for all, a data set in place” on which to have a debate about a vacant property tax.

He was speaking as the Seanad debated and passed the Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill which for the first time taxes homes built since 2013, which were previously exempt when the charge was first introduced eight years ago.

A vote was called on legislation but it passed without one because there were fewer than five, the minimum number of opposing Senators who must be present, for a vote to take place.

Minister of State for Finance Sean Fleming introduced the Bill in the Seanad which is expected to result in 36 per cent of homeowners paying more than they do currently, while about 53 per cent will not see any change, and 11 per cent can expect their liability to fall.

The Bill maintains 20 property tax bands of which bands one and two, properties worth up to €265,000, remain the same while the others are widened by 75 per cent.

Mr Fleming said that since 2014 €166 million had been paid to the pyrite remediation scheme as he pointed to the exemption for six years from the tax for properties affected by pyrite and mica. Opposition TDs have said homeowners should not have to pay the tax for as long as the problem continues and until their homes are fully repaired or new ones built.

Replying to the debate Mr Donohoe said about a potential vacant property tax that “we do not have the kind of valid and hard data that is needed” to answer questions about the introduction of such a charge.

Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins expressed concern about a delay of up to four years in introducing such a tax if the State waited until the next re-valuation.

She said the Government should use the current valuation process to establish the number of vacant properties.

When people are filling in the information in the re-valuation process there could be “large patterns” of vacant properties.

“There are situations where artificial scarcity drives up prices and has value. We’ve seen it being done in apartment buildings here in Dublin.

“If there is a pattern of large-scale vacant properties as there seems to be, this is the chance to get the information.”

But Mr Donohoe said there could be GDPR issues in collecting personal data for a tax that does not yet exist.

He said, however, if and when information became available that indicated there was a large group of homes believed to be empty for reasons no longer deemed adequate, he would not hesitate to move on the issue.

Mr Donohoe agreed with Ms Higgins that even signalling a debate on such an issue could have a positive value.