Revenue face property tax grilling as Labour urges payment delay
THE Revenue Commissioners will face a grilling by an Oireachtas committee on their methods for collecting the residential property tax for 2014.
All-party Finance Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch has written to the head of Revenue, Josephine Feehily, asking her to appear before the members to discuss the timing and operation of the scheme.
There is widespread confusion over why compliant taxpayers are being asked to pay a tax in 2013 that is not due until 2014. Payment by credit, debit card or cheque is due by November 27.
Consumer groups and retailers have railed at the pre-Christmas property tax grab, and Fine Gael and Labour are deeply divided on the issue. Labour wants to see the payment for 2014 delayed until the new year.
Mr Lynch said: "The purpose of the meeting is to deal with any ambiguities or concerns in regard to the payment of the local property tax, and in some circumstances to establish how the issue of premature payments is dealt with."
He added that Revenue should listen to the concerns of "those who want to pay the tax".
The confusion deepened further yesterday when a minister said homeowners can signal how they are paying now and then make a single payment by January 1 – provided it was via a third party outlet such as An Post or Payzone. But the An Post option is only available with a debit card and with Payzone by credit or debit card.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton accepted that the language used in the letter from Revenue was "technical" and may have confused people.
"Speaking as an accountant, I would say that it would be a bit silly for somebody to pay their tax in advance unless they had a lot of cash," she said.
"The Revenue is telling people of the payment arrangements well in advance, but nobody has to pay until 2014."
Fine Gael is backing Revenue's policy, claiming there are up to six ways to avoid paying the property tax until next year.
However, the Government is likely to tell Revenue to up its game in explaining the various payment options.
Despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny backing the Revenue Commissioners' controversial property tax collection, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is standing by his call for the tax authorities to reconsider the deadline.
The property tax was only applied for six months this year, so 2014 will be the first year it will be levied for a full 12 months. Almost one million homeowners have only weeks to sort out how to pay their property tax bill for 2014.
Labour sources say the issue matters because 60pc of homeowners who paid the property tax in 2013 did so by credit or debit card or cheque.
The junior coalition partner is suggesting the link be broken between confirming the type of payment and paying the bill.
"There's no reason they can't decouple the method of payment and when you pay. By November 27, you'd still say how you're going to pay and then pay in January," a senior said.