Fears grow of housing tax fiasco
A MASSIVE 120,000 homes will have to be processed every day before March 31 if the household charge is to be stopped from turning into a fiasco.
Government officials are becoming increasingly worried that as many as one million people will not have registered for the tax before the deadline.
The Herald can reveal that despite the insistence that there will be no last-minute rush, behind the scenes panic has started to set in.
"It's not looking good at this stage," said a source. "It doesn't seem to be a case of civil disobedience as much as people just not bothering to sign up in huge numbers."
However, the Government still intends to fast-track a full property tax next year.
They are anxious to find a way of registering every home so that they can receive an individualised bill through the post, rather than a simple reminder notice.
The self-assessed system could mean the owner of a regular three-bed semi-detached home having to pay between €200 and €300.
Just over 250,000 of the 1.6 million households in the country are paid up so far, with the deadline for payment looming on March 31.
The head of the body in charge of collecting the €100 household charge said yesterday he expects to see a rapid increase in the numbers paying before the end of the month.
Local Government Management Agency chief executive Paul McSweeney said he didn't have any fears about the ability of the computer system to deal with a flood of payments in the coming days.
He also said he expected a large proportion of payments to be made by post.
The Government is also planning to avail of a law that allows the deduction of the €100 fee from the pay or social welfare benefits of homeowners who dodge the payment.
But such a deduction from source would only be a last resort and would have to be ordered by a court. The Fines Act 2010 is aimed at reducing the number of people going to jail for refusing to pay fines by giving the Government more ways to collect the payments.
However, this would come at the end of a prosecution for failing to pay the charge.
A late-payment fee of €10 will apply if the charge is not paid within six months of the due date, €20 between six and 12 months and €30 if the payment is 12 months late.
These penalties are similar to the rules that apply under Revenue Commissioners laws on the late filing and payment of certain taxes. After two years of failing to pay, the penalty rises to €280, with the combination of the charges, the late-payment fees and late-payment interest.