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Sinn Féin PMB Repeal the Family Home Tax: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin, Cavan-Monaghan

11 June, 2013 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

The hardship endured by masses of people in this State as a result of the economic collapse caused by Fianna Fáil is now being compounded by the failed but ongoing policy of austerity imposed by this Fine Gael/Labour Government.

The sharp end of that austerity policy as now experienced by people the length and breadth of the country is the so-called Property Tax which is really a Family Home Tax. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their respective parties are on record as opposing this form of blanket tax which takes no account of ability to pay. They have now left that opposition behind them, discarded in the same dustbin of history where the Labour Party threw its posters proclaiming ‘Protect Child Benefit – Vote Labour’.

Now the spin from Government is that this tax on the family home is great for local government. That is pure baloney.

Minister Hogan is delivering a double blow to local government and local democracy. He has cut funding for local government and he is pushing ahead with a plan to abolish town councils and to drastically cut the number of councillors without giving back any real powers to Councils or to the communities they represent.

People are being forced to pay this unjust Family Home Tax at the very time their local government services are being cut back.

A prime example of the cruel and senseless and totally counter-productive nature of the cuts to local government is the slashing of the Housing Adaptation Grant.

An overall cut of 40% across the State this year is outrageous and in some local authorities it is even higher than that.

Many older people and people with disabilities who own their own homes have been forced to pay the Family Home Tax at the very time they are being told they will not get support from their local authority to have vital work carried out to make their homes liveable. In many cases such work is vital to help them stay in their own homes and out of long-term residential care, thus saving the state enormous sums of public money.

As well as being cruel to these vulnerable citizens the cut is economic madness.

Thousands of small builders and tradespeople found very badly needed work in carrying out these grant-aided housing adaptations. The Government is drastically reducing this source of economic activity which incidentally freed up further cash in the economy as successful applicants used their own resources to make up the balance of the cost.

What public respect will be left for local democracy as a result of this Government’s actions? An unjust tax is imposed and labelled a Local Property Tax at the very time that local services provided by local government are slashed.

Local economies across the State are further weakened as the already very limited expendable income of so many of our people is further reduced by means of this Family Home Tax.

Let us be very clear about Sinn Féin’s determination on this tax. We want it abolished and we will continue to campaign for abolition whatever the outcome of the vote on this Bill.

Just because the deadline for filing returns has now passed it does not mean the fight against this tax is over. Far from it. People need to continue to show their opposition so that this tax will – sooner or later – be abolished and also to prevent the Government increasing it next year or the year after.

The Family Home Tax demand that people have received is for the half year July to December 2013 – next year they will be made to pay double that, a full year. Also in 2014 the Fine Gael/Labour Government is planning to introduce Water Charges – another imposition on hard-pressed households while the salaries of super-rich bank bosses and other fat-cats are protected.

There IS an alternative. The alternative is to tax wealth, not the family home. A new top rate of tax for the highest earners would raise €365 million per year. A 1% tax on net wealth over €1 million (excluding business assets, working farms and 20% of family home & pensions) would raise €800 million per year. Fair taxation based on ability to pay is a just demand and we will continue to make that demand and in Government we will implement it.

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