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Property tax must benefit those who pay

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Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tony Gavin

Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tony Gavin

Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tony Gavin

EIGHTY per cent of the property tax collected in a local authority area should be ring-fenced to maintain and improve local services.

That's the purpose of the Finance Local Property Tax (Amendment) Bill 2014, which I'm seeking to introduce in the Dail today.

This Bill would give effect to a government commitment on the 80pc use that was made a year ago by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

This commitment has not been included in the local property tax legislation, leaving it open to be reneged upon.

Unfortunately, this happened already this year, with a substantial amount of the property tax being used to fund the establishment of Irish Water instead of local services as promised.

Mr Hogan has now said that the measure will be implemented from 2015 onwards, but I have concerns that in future years the tax could be used to fund similar projects or to pay off debt – unless it is written into legislation.

Many people have concerns about the property tax. There are some who do not think it is a fair tax and do not want to pay it.

However, many people have informed me that they do not have a problem paying a property tax if it will benefit services in their local area – services such as libraries, open spaces, public parks, leisure amenities, fire and emergency services, street maintenance and street lighting. Taxpayers need assurance that their hard-earned money will be used in these areas.

It is also a concern that if legislation is not introduced to ensure 80pc of the tax is allocated to the local authority, and the authority has the power to set property tax rates in the future, councils may seek increases in the rate.

PRESSURE

My constituents have experienced substantial delays in getting roads and ramps repaired and trees pruned in their area. In future, people may be charged even more tax when some are already not satisfied with the service they are receiving.

The vast majority of householders are under enormous financial pressure. A further hike in property tax would be the final straw for many struggling families.

Property prices in Dublin are increasing rapidly once again. According to the CSO, Dublin house prices increased 15.7pc in 2013. As a result, residents here are paying the highest level of property tax in the country.

It is therefore only right that taxes paid on Dublin properties should remain in Dublin to improve the communities that pay them.

In other countries, local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges that are similar to the property tax.

This Bill seeks to bring Ireland in line with other countries. It ultimately sets in stone that the majority of a person's property tax will be put to good use in their own area.

I hope that the Government will support my proposed Bill. After all, it merely seeks to honour a commitment made a year ago by the minister, Phil Hogan.

It would simply ensure that the Government keeps its own promise.

TERENCE FLANAGAN IS INDEPENDENT REFORM ALLIANCE TD FOR DUBLIN BAY NORTH