Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach

Finance Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 162 and 164 would require the Minister for Finance to lay a report before the Dáil on the introduction of a vacant residential property tax. Amendment No. 162 would require that such a report be laid before the Houses within one month of the enactment of the Finance Bill, while Deputy Doherty seeks a report within six months of the passing of the Bill.

I have stated that the primary objective of any vacant residential property tax would be to increase the supply of homes for rent or purchase to meet demand. However, before introducing such a tax, it is vital to have a sound understanding of the quantity, locations and characteristics of long-term vacant properties and the reasons they are vacant. This is the reason the housing for all strategy includes an action for my Department to collect data on vacancy with a view to introducing a vacant property tax.

The Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Act 2021 has accordingly enabled Revenue to collect certain information on vacant properties in the local property tax, LPT, return forms submitted by residential property owners in respect of the new LPT valuation period 2022-25. The extended deadline for submission of returns was Wednesday 10 November. The information on vacancy in the LPT returns, in respect of approximately 2 million properties, is currently being analysed by Revenue and together with information from other available sources, will be used to assess the merits and inform the design of a vacant property tax.

It is important to identify the reasons for vacancy and whether this is long or short term in nature. There may be genuine and acceptable reasons for vacancy such as refurbishment work, the temporary absence of the owner for medical reasons or pending the grant of probate for a deceased person’s estate. Appropriate exemptions from any charge would have to be considered in addition to acceptable periods of vacancy.

I want to make it clear that it is my intention to introduce a vacant property tax. However, the matter needs further consideration and the information Revenue will be collecting will be an input into what we will do, because we will need to come up with a tax which plays a role in encouraging and changing the use of vacant properties. Once the information from the returns has been collated and drawing on other available information, we will be in a better position to design a vacant property tax and assess its merits and precise design. As part of Housing for All, I will be treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves and will be looking at the introduction of a vacant residential property tax as early as possible.