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6 January 2013 Edition

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Sinn Féin launches campaign against ‘Family Home Tax’

Property Tax by Fine Gael/Labour faces massive public opposition

Labour claims comparing the Property Tax to rates in the North were demolished by Mary Lou McDonald – rates pay for emergency services, education, health, housing, roads, water, community centres, waste management and sewerage services

THE new Property Tax the Fine Gael/Labour Government wants to bring into effect in July has been described by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams in the Dáil as a “Family Home Tax”.

Declaring that Sinn Féin will be “actively campaigning to resist the introduction of this unfair tax on the family home”, he said the tax had been the “brainchild of Fianna Fáil” when they were in government.

The new tax introduced in December’s Budget will see homeowners forced to pay 0.18% of their house price annually depending on which of the ‘valuation bands’ a home falls into. A household where the family home is valued just above €200,000 can expect to pay €405 per year.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“The Government had the option of a real wealth tax and chose not to take it. Instead, you chose to impose a punitive tax on the family home.”

In the Dáil, Labour leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore recited the rates that homes pay in the North, claiming that for Sinn Féin to oppose the Property Tax was “hypocrisy”. Pat Rabbitte made similar comments but their arguments were demolished by Mary Lou McDonald who said she wished Government TDs would “do their homework properly” before investigating matters north of the border.

In the North, the rates system is used to pay for emergency services, education, health, housing, roads, water, community centres, waste management and sewerage services. In contrast, in the South, most of these services have to be paid for separately while others, such as water rates, are set to be introduced.

The Property Tax Bill also gives the Revenue Commissioners power to collect the tax. It is believed the decision was made after the Government was unable to collect the Household Charge from hundreds of thousands of homeowners who simply refused to pay. Finance Minister Michael Noonan threatened that those who refuse to pay the tax will not be able to get a Tax Clearance Certificate.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community, Environment and Local Government Brian Stanley described these new powers as “draconian and unprecedented”.

He said it is “unfair to force local councils to depend on unfair tax to fund local services that have already been paid for in people’s taxes. On one hand you continue to slash funding to local government while with the other hand you force home owners, regardless of income, to compensate their local councils for these cuts. Those on disability payments and low-income families pay the same as the multi-millionaire!”

Figures released in mid-December by the Central Bank showed that 180,000 out of 900,000 people paying back mortgages — one in five — are in mortgage distress and either unable to meet their original terms or are late in their repayments. Reacting to the figures, which she described as “devastating”, Mary Lou McDonald said:

“So what’s Fine Gael and Labour’s response to this crisis?  The introduction of a property tax!  You actually couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s no skin off any minister’s nose — on a salary of €169,000 a year they are well able to pay up, but for the average family trying to keep their head above water this is an absolutely devastating blow.

“Why on earth would you introduce a property tax into a system that is buckled by a property crash and financial crisis? It is simply not an intelligent decision.”

There were protests outside the Dáil by Sinn Féin and other groups when the Property Tax Bill was being debated in December while demonstrations were also held across the state outside the offices of Fine Gael and Labour TDs.

The opposition by Fianna Fáil to the new tax came under scrutiny too with Pearse Doherty saying it was hyopcritical of the party to oppose it because “if Fianna Fáil were in government this unfair and damaging tax would have already been introduced”. Doherty pointed out that Fianna Fáil’s pre-Budget submission in 2012 actually proposed the introduction of a property tax.

Speaking during the Property Tax Bill, Doherty said: “This is not a property tax. A property tax would include all assets. It would include stocks and shares; it would include homes, land, yachts and art collections. It would be, in plain English, a wealth tax. Sinn Féin will campaign against the introduction of this Family Home Tax and if it is introduced we will campaign for its abolition.”

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