Property Tax: The war begins in earnest now

From this week the latest bitter austerity pill will be administered to our hard pressed low and middle income earners as letters arrive in every home from the Revenue Commissioners demanding the new property tax.

Although having the Revenue logo, they will arrive by edict of the Troika, the economic dictators who are being allowed to walk with jackboots over the living standards of our people, courtesy of the connivance of gutless politicians who comprise the Fine Gael and Labour parties, and before them, Fianna Fail. And never forget, this is another tribute exacted to bail out the private gambling debts of the bankers and bondholders who wrecked this economy.

The property tax has no democratic legitimacy. Apart from its genesis as part of the agenda to pay private gambling debts for which the Irish people have no responsibility, the parties in government disowned what they have now introduced. In its 2011 General Election Manifesto, Fine Gael said, “Fianna Fail’s proposal, now endorsed by the Labour Party, to introduce by 2014 an annual, recurring residential property tax on the family home is unfair. . . we will empower local authorities to put in place, following the 2014 local elections, fairer alternatives to Fianna Fail’s and Labour’s recurring annual tax on the family home.”

Labour’s Manifesto declared, “Labour accepts it will be necessary to introduce a site value charge. . . Further detailed study will be required to devise a fair basis for such a charge that takes account of the value of the property in different regions,. . . and the need to take account of those who have recently paid large sums in stamp duty or who are in negative equity.” None of this was done. The two Property Tax Bills make blatant liars of Fine Gael and Labour. They had no mandate to introduce the property tax and they have no moral authority to enforce it.

Even before the first letter goes out, Revenue has begun to position itself to spin the figures as regards the number who will resist the property tax by boycott. In ‘Budget 2013’, the official Department of Finance book distributed in the Dail Chamber as the Minister for Finance began his presentation of the Budget on December 5, it is stated, “The Revenue Commissioners are developing a comprehensive register of residential properties in the State. It will contain approximately 1.9 million properties.” Yesterday the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Josephine Feehily, said that the Revenue would be sending letters claiming tax for 1.6 million properties.
It would seem that Revenue intend to continue the distortion of the figures begun by the Local Government Management Agency(LGMA) relating to the Household Tax last year. It claimed that only 1.6 million homes were liable. This made the registration and payment figures look better and the boycott figures look less than the reality. But the truth is not difficult to find.

Last year professor Rob Kitchin of Maynooth Geography Department, who is not an anti property tax advocate, used official sources to clarify the figures. The National Census 2011 showed just under two million houses in the State – 1,994,845 in fact. Local authority houses amounted to 130,000 and if we allow another 70,000 for a very few exemptions, that leaves 1.8 million privately owned houses on which property tax is supposed to be paid. Where are the 200,000 houses that were “disappeared” by the LGMA and now by the Revenue Commissioners?

The war begins in earnest now. The Campaign Against Home and Water Taxes is to the forefront having organised a highly effective movement last year, which still has 52% of owners of one home boycotting the Household Tax tax. Yesterday it called for ‘a massive Boycott of the Revenue returns as a key platform for a major resistance campaign including determined pressure to stop deduction at source and involving industrial action.’ It called for relentless political pressure on the Fine Gael and Labour Parties and announced the organisation of public meetings in all areas of the country as the Revenue letters arrive. As well as that, it has set Saturday, March 23 as a day for regional and local protests all around the country, Saturday April 23 for a major National Demonstration in Dublin and Mayday as a nationwide day of protest. This plan of action is designed to involve, and to give confidence, to all those ordinary taxpayers who are angry about this tax and want to fight it before the dates set in May for the return of registration forms.

A long summer of discontent and resistance to the property tax beckons which coincidentally will interweave with the debate on the Croke Park agreement which constitutes yet another vicious attack on the living standards of low and middle income workers, this time in the public sector.