Property tax debacle


Property tax debacle

With only two working lights in the whole estate and two thirds of the houses yet to be built or occupied, Ard na Greine residents in Mitchelstown are unhappy at being asked to pay the controversial property tax.

Thursday, 28 March 2013
12:00 AM GMT

With only two working lights in the whole estate and two thirds of the houses yet to be built or occupied, the residents of Ard na Greine in Mitchelstown are among thousands of people in ghost estates who are furious about being asked to pay the controversial property tax.

Ian Malcolm who lives in the estate said that he would not be happy to pay this tax, particularly after the Government said that unfinished housing estates would not have to pay any charge like this until 2016.

“Under one third of the houses here are occupied, there are only two lights up here that actually work at night, so you are walking into pitch black – it’s a ghost estate, but in fresh light from Government eyes, it’s not it seems.

“We have limited services and lighting and we are still, as such, living in a building site.”

Some people in the estate have already been billed, while others are still dreading the arrival of the bill. For many people who would have bought their home in the boom, this additional cost is something that they simply cannot afford.

Mr Malcolm recently took his business The Mouse Pad off the main street of Mitchelstown and is now working from home on a single income and he said that this is yet another financial burden to bear.

“We are the only unfinished housing estate in Mitchelstown and it is only right that we should be exempt.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny may not agree with him, but many people in North Cork firmly believe this week that Labour Minister Sean Sherlock got it right when he admitted the Government has made a mess of handling communication of exemptions from the local property tax.

With local authority residents in North Cork who aren’t liable for the charge, alarmed and upset to get demands for the property tax this week and all of the area’s ‘ghost’ estates which were exempt from the household charge now deemed liable for the property tax, people are up in arms.

Fine Gael TD Tom Barry was due to meet with residents of so called ‘ghost’ estates in Rathcormac and Castlelyons this week. They’re upset to find that the exemptions which applied to unfinished estates for the household charge don’t apply to the property tax. Deputy Barry was planning to assess their situation and then lobby on their behalf if necessary.

It appears that houses in such estates are now being deemed liable for the tax solely on the basis that they are fully constructed and have basic services such as ESB, water and sewage, and residents are living in them, regardless of whether or not the estates have proper roads, public lighting and unfinished houses among them. Deputy Barry says he’s written to Environment Minister Phil Hogan about the matter, questioning who was responsible for making the decision as to what estates were included and what criteria was used to determine liability for the charge. “Labour is right, it’s been handled badly,” he admitted.

Following on from his admission on the RTE show ‘The Week in Politics’ on Sunday night, that they’d made a mess of communicating the exemptions, Minister Sean Sherlock told The Avondhu this week: “I certainly have serious doubts about the handling of communication around exemptions. It is evident that there is more work to be done around the estates that had been originally exempt. There is an inconsistency in the approach to addressing this and I am keen to see changes to this.”

Local Sinn Fein councillor, Seamus Coleman put it more succinctly. “It’s a farce,” he said. “A dog’s dinner has been made of it. Local authority tenants have all got demands for large payments. They’re not liable for the property tax. Some older tenants are worried about being fined and this just shows that the whole roll-out of this unfair ‘home tax’ has been handled terribly by Government,” he said.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since households started receiving local property tax letters with over-inflated valuations of their homes. Houses just outside Fermoy are being put into the band €150,000 to €200,000. This is over valuing the properties. The most recent houses sold there were sold for between €95,000 and €120,000 with one five-bedrom house being sold for €95,000,” he outlined.

“The Revenue Commissioners have used a blunt instrument of districts and post codes to decide, wrongly, what value is put on people’s homes. This has led to the situation whereby Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary will be expected to pay less than low to middle income families in the Fermoy area.”

In the case of unfinished or ‘ghost’ estates he said: “The Government has used a blunt instrument on such estates and they now expect all residents occupying their properties to pay despite the obvious lack of basic conditions in the estates.”

Branding it ‘a money-grabbing, fishing expedition the Government has embarked on to generate money to please the Troika’,  Cllr Coleman said it must be halted. “Local Labour and Fine Gael councillors really need to step up in this situation and  show support for those they represent,” he added.

Meanwhile local authority tenants who received demands for property tax are advised to return the letters to the Revenue Commissioners explaining that they are tenants and not owners of the houses.

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