Given the recent history of our current government in relation to imposing draconian measures on its ordinary citizens, nothing should really take us by surprise anymore. It is quite clear that this government is intent on taxing its struggling citizens beyond breaking point. Exemptions to this crippling austerity will be kept to the bare minimum. That is certainly the impression we are left with after today’s announcement that only 5,100 houses will be exempt from the Local Property Tax (LPT).
Perhaps more startling is the fact that this figure is down from 43,000 exemptions under the Household Charge last year. Such exemptions clearly enticed many struggling homeowners to register their details with the revenue commissioners. In doing so, many of these homeowners will now face crippling property taxes this year. It seems this government is determined to resist reprieve for homeowners affected by the issue of pyrite or unfinished estates.
Serious questions must be asked as to how such a substantial decrease in exemptions could have taken place. Of course the Government line is that houses have been tested against the criteria for exemptions. They will argue that such a figure reflects nationwide efforts to resolve the issue of ghost estates and pyrite affected homes. Yet some figures would seem to suggest a different reality.
According to the National Housing Development Survey as of November 2012, 1,770 housing estates remained unfinished and approximately 1100 remained in a serious problematic condition. Yet in the space of five months only 423 have come to be considered exempt under the new property tax. This is in contrast to the 1322 unfinished estates or approximately 43,000 households that were exempt last year under the Household charge. In 2012 the Department of Environment, Culture and Local Government acknowledged that only 250 of these estates were considered active whereby developers were undertaking or furthering construction. Given these figures, questions arise as to how so many estates have suddenly become elligble for the Property Tax. Certainly it would appear that there are huge discrepancies here.
Even more startling is the issue regarding homes affected by Pyrite. According to a report conducted by the Pyrite Panel it was estimated that 12,500 homes nationwide were affected by Pyrite. Yet as it stands, homeowners must be able to demonstrate significant damage as a result of Pyrite before an exemption can be considered. In many cases the onus will be on the owner to test their property for pyrite damage. Yet the risk involves incurring significant charges to conduct this testing with no guarantee of an exemption ever being granted. Given this scenario, our government has done little to alleviate the uncertainty for many pyrite affected homeowners.
The sorry reality appears to be that Fine Gael and Labour will coerce this property tax on the majority of citizens and exempt the bare minimum. Today’s figures seem quite explicit in this regard. The age of austerity continues and once more ordinary citizens are expected to struggle at the expense of bailed out banks and property developers. Until the very politicians who implement these policies are met with widespread resistance, long will it continue.