Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Second Stage (Continued)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins] Section 65 gives the lie to this once and for all since it instructs employers to take the property tax from the same wage that income tax comes out of, in the same way as income tax and at the same time. Let us have no more of this pretence that the property tax comes from some mysterious source other than workers' wages.

There is an alternative: no more of Irish workers' economic lifeblood to bondholders and bankers, tax the super wealthy, invest in public infrastructure to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work and remake this broken economy. It could then provide the taxes and resources we need for our services in health and education and for our elderly people and we could create a decent and sustainable life with dignity for all our people, young and old.

Deputy Michael Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry There is a reluctant but growing acceptance that a property tax will become a reality. The local property tax in its current form has sparked widespread concern and considerable anger from those who simply cannot take any more pain and who are now living in fear. The local property tax compounds the harsh effects of this budget on families, the elderly and those on lower incomes. The persistent message from my Tipperary constituents is simple: their income has been cut to the bone and any further taxes inflicted will devastate household finances. The budget has created a real fear that Revenue will come down heavily on vulnerable families for the local property tax. These families are understandably frightened at the wide-ranging powers of attachment vested in the Revenue Commissioners. Essentially, the Bill will allow Revenue to take money at source from a social welfare recipient, a farm payment, a wage packet or a bank account. These strong-arm collection tactics will lead to families sacrificing other essential needs to ensure the tax is paid. This may mean no heating will be turned on, no food will be on the table, bills will fall into arrears or the mortgage will not be paid. The deferral system built into the Bill is illogical and will serve only to saddle strained individuals with a mammoth bill later. In fact, it punishes individuals who cannot pay immediately by slapping a 4% interest charge per annum.

Many families have slogged and saved for many years to put a roof over their heads. They are now being crucified by these measures. The narrowness of the exemptions in the Bill will cause severe hardship and pain for home owners. A system based solely on the value of the property and which takes no other considerations into account is grossly unfair and inequitable. Why has no regard been given to other factors such as negative equity, stamp duty paid or an individual's ability to pay? There is no relief for those who purchased large homes in recent years but who now have limited incomes. A large home does not necessarily equate to wealth. Many such people have seen their incomes decimated and are now struggling with a large house they can no longer afford to maintain. Many of these people invested their savings in a banking system that collapsed. Why is the income and wealth of home owners not taken into account? The Government has failed to protect those crippled financially by negative equity or mortgage arrears. It has simply ignored these present-day realities in our society and intends to impose a blanket charge on everyone, irrespective of ability to pay or the impact it will have on those on lower incomes.

What consideration did the Government give to a site valuation tax? Why was a decision made to pursue a tax based on the value of the property? How are home owners with no relevant experience to determine the market value of their home? What support will be given to assist home owners with the valuation assessment? Will a commitment be given that no adverse reaction will ensue if such a home owner erroneously undervalues his house? Who will be the final arbitrator where there is a dispute over the value of a property? If this power is afforded to the Revenue Commissioners, has due reflection been given to the fact that the Revenue has no experience of valuing homes or the property market in general? Where financial resources are limited or non-existent, will the Revenue Commissioners take precedence in collecting the charge over other creditors such as the banks? We are certain to witness many situations in which banks and mortgage lenders will be in competition with the Revenue in a mad scramble to get the first squeeze on the last euro from the property owner.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I call Deputy Liam Twomey, who is sharing time with Deputies O'Reilly, Lawlor, Eoghan Murphy, Heather Humphreys, Feighan and Doyle.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey Many people have had a good deal to say about this property tax. A good property tax will be progressive, help to keep property prices stable in the long term and encourage the appropriate use of housing stock. This is important because in the long term we need to ensure we have a sustainable housing stock. Although this may be a difficult time to introduce such a tax, in the long term it will be useful. The Minister will have to consider where a section of people are being significantly hit.

It is difficult to discuss this in our national Parliament because the angry man politics of recent days does not encourage us to believe there could be a reasonable debate. As a matter of interest, I went through some of the Sinn Féin proposals because I found them interesting. They are somewhat cloak and dagger. It appears that even a Deputy would be better off under the Sinn Féin budget than under the Fine Gael and Labour Party budget, an interesting interpretation. In the past half hour I have heard voodoo economics and people encouraging revolution, and it has hit a low point. Clearly, Deputy Boyd Barrett never read a book about revolution, on what can actually happen to people in a revolution and who is most affected. He would be better off spending his time coming up with more sensible solutions which we could read over and examine to see if they make more sense than the nonsense we have listened to for the past half an hour.

We understand what people are suffering. We understand that concerns have been raised about the property tax and many of the other budget measures. However, at least we are trying to give a fair stab at looking after people in a proper way and we are trying to get ourselves out of this mess, rather than the raw meat we have been forced to listen to. It is easy to see why a Government would want a guillotine debate in the House if that is the quality of the debate we are listening to.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Back to the blueshirts, is that it?

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey The issue is the quality of the debate from Deputy Higgins. It is absolute nonsense and it makes absolutely no sense. It is voodoo economics with no solutions and nothing solid, only lectures about revolution and asking people to go out on the streets and destroy property and lives. We have long since put that behind us.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins What property has been destroyed of late?

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey We are trying to find proper solutions. Why does Deputy Higgins not put forward a balanced budget and shows us what he believes in?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Deputy Twomey should read our website.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey We will do so. I have read the Sinn Féin website. I hope there is more clarity than in the Sinn Féin website where there was no clarity. It is anti-democratic to use the Dáil Chamber to stoke fear and anger in people. There should be a more solid debate about these measures and I hope there will be next week. There are problems with this legislation and many people on this side of the House have acknowledged that, rather than the derision and hatred from those in the Opposition when they mention these things. That is not the way a national parliament is supposed to work. I expected more with regard to this debate.

We know that many people in negative equity will face a serious crisis with regard to how they will pay this property tax. There will be some solutions produced beyond what the Minister has proposed to help people out. At least there is a game plan to what the Government seeks to do with the property tax rather than the Fianna Fáil flip-flopping. That party agreed to this with the IMF and that is wrong.

Those in Sinn Féin must think that no one in Derry listens to the "Six-one" news show. People in Derry are paying £1,500 for what is basically a property tax. The same party down here maintains that we should not have anything like it. That is hypocrisy and it amounts to misleading the people. It is contributing to the anger and frustration that people legitimately feel because we are going through the worst crisis the country has ever seen since the State was founded.

I had expected to say more about it but there is no possibility of holding a reasonable debate in the House, of discussing how to impose rates on businesses, how to tax the profits of businesses, how to help businesses that are struggling, how to apply the same rules to households under pressure, whether we should ask people who can pay more to do so or of holding a proper discussion about issues such as child benefit. Clearly, this will not happen when those in opposition are simply lazy and all they want to do is stoke up anger or pretend they are angry. That is all I have to say.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan That was inspirational.

Deputy Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly A reasonable bystander in the Gallery this afternoon could only be struck by the hypocrisy and cynicism of the people speaking on the Opposition benches and by the quality of their debating skills.

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