Changes to tax breaks
Madam, – It is my firmly held view that some of the proposed changes to property-related tax reliefs are unconstitutional.
In Ireland, parliament is not supreme. The will of the people (the electorate) as expressed through the Constitution is supreme and the Oireachtas and government may not act outside the parameters of the Constitution. This is a manifestation of what is known as the rule of law.
The government wanted to encourage private funding of property development.
It promised taxpayers that they would receive relief from tax on rental income if they invested. Many taxpayers relied on that promise and invested.
However, the Government wants to retract that promise. To do so is clearly unfair – in legalese it is described as “an unjust attack upon the taxpayers’ property rights”. Recent case law suggests that such encroachments upon citizens’ property rights can be justified if they are necessary to address “an extreme financial crisis or fundamental disequilibrium in the public finances”. In other words, if the Government did not act, the State would go bankrupt.
The retraction of the promise of tax relief is simply unnecessary when raising future taxes will do. In truth, the retraction is a populist gesture. It is crucial that we do not trounce the constitutional rights of certain groups of people simply because it is currently popular to bash those groups. Otherwise, the rule of law – the notion that the Oireachtas must act within the Constitution – is meaningless. – Yours, etc,