Seanad debates

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Tax Reliefs

2:30 pm

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Táim buíoch as an deis an freagra seo a thabhairt don Seanadóir.

As the Senator has said, there are currently no specific tax-based measures targeted at the owner-occupiers of apartments with defects. However, the programme for Government does commit to examining the issue of defective housing in general. The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, who generally deals with these matters, has established an independent working group to examine the issue of defects in housing. Officials from the Department of Finance participate in the working group. The objectives of the group are to identify the scope of relevant significant defects in housing, to evaluate the scale of housing affected including what the Senator has spoken about, to propose a means of prioritising defects, to evaluate the cost of remediation, to recommend appropriate mechanisms for resolving defects and to consider financing options in line with the programme for Government commitment to identifying options for those impacted by defects to access low-cost, long-term finance.

I understand that the working group has already agreed in its terms of reference to establish the nature of significant, widespread fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects in purpose-built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 and 2013. It will consider the wide-ranging and complex issues involved, including the scale of the issue, the nature of the issues, the methodology for characterisation of defects and the prioritisation of remedial action.

As the Senator has noted, these issues, of course, must be considered in the context of the legal rights, duties and obligations of all parties, including developers, builders and owners. This is a complex matter and deliberations of the group will be informed by consultation with a range of interested parties, homeowners, public representatives, local authorities, product manufacturers, building professionals, among others. It is likely that if there is any role for the tax system, as envisaged by the Senator, that this will fall to be considered by the Minister for Finance.

Any proposals in relation to tax expenditure measures directed at owner-occupiers of affected apartments that may arise from the working group's work would be assessed by the Department of Finance in accordance with its tax expenditure guidelines, which make clear that these should occur in limited circumstances and where it would be more efficient than a direct expenditure intervention. Under the guidelines, the introduction of new tax incentive measures should only be considered in circumstances where there is demonstrable market failure and where a tax-based incentive is more efficient than a direct expenditure intervention. Furthermore, the Minister for Finance must be mindful of the public finances and the many demands on the Exchequer. Tax reliefs lead to a narrowing of the tax base.

Finally, and again the Senator has mentioned this, any consideration of tax expenditure measures would have to occur in the context of the annual budget and Finance Bill process at the appropriate time in the coming weeks.


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