Friday, 16 July 2021
Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages
Barry Ward (Fine Gael)
I agree with Senator Higgins that it is important to have a progressive tax system. However, progressivity does not mean that those who are paying a certain rate now should necessarily stay at that rate or pay more. I am not saying that is what Senator Higgins was saying. There has been an unfortunate latching on to the notion that people who may have very valuable properties might see a decrease in their local property taxes. However, if that is the effect of the bands, it is entirely appropriate. I think this would happen only in a fairly minute proportion of the cases. If they do experience a decrease in local property tax, it means they have been paying too much over recent years relative to their neighbours. The key purpose of the Bill is to provide equalisation - a fair and level playing pitch. Some people who have been paying no local property taxes since their houses were built in 2013, or whatever year it was, will now be brought into the net. That creates a greater total fund coming from LPT, which allows most people to experience either no change or a reduction, which is the important part.
I reiterate what I said on Second Stage on the flexibility of this. There is a missed opportunity which unfortunately we cannot amend because it is not mentioned in the Bill and given that we are in the Seanad, we are restricted on the extent to which we can do that. One of the missed opportunities in bringing in local property tax reform legislation is not trusting in local authorities and not allowing councillors to make a real decision about the rates householders in their areas should be paying. The 15% buffer either side of the full rate represents a missed opportunity for us to say we trust local authorities to decide what rate their householders should be paying. Why not allow them to vary it by as much as they believe is appropriate - perhaps even by 100% one way or the other? The councillors on the ground understand what is reasonable. There is a lack of trust of councillors to make that decision when in fact that is the direction we should be going in. There is a missed opportunity in this part of the Bill not to afford them that latitude.