Written Answers. - Tax Anomaly.

Seamus Brennan

Question:

62 Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to an anomaly in section 23 of the Finance Act, 1981, regarding rented residential accommodation which is discriminatory against widows in view of the fact that a section 23 property in the late husband's name passes exclusively to the widow for her maintenance within the ten years of life of the tax relief, with the relief being clawed back in the year of death; his views on whether this is an unintentional anomaly in view of the fact that, if the section 23 property is in the name of a wife and either spouse dies, no additional tax arises, as is the case if the section 23 property is in the name of the husband and the wife dies; his further views on whether the continuation of this anomaly could lead to the section 23 property being sold to pay the taxes at a time when, in many cases, a widow is most in need of relief; whether concessional relief is available; if so, the circumstances under which concessional relief is given; the plans, if any, he has to retrospectively amend this legislation or to arrange that a husband's death will be ignored for section 23 tax relief purposes when the death occurs before the expiry of the tax relief period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8578/96]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the difficulty to which the Deputy is referring can arise in certain circumstances upon the passing, on the death of the owner, of a section 23 property to the surviving spouse. It arises only when the deceased person is the "assessable person" of a jointly assessed couple or where single treatment applies and does not reflect a different tax treatment for surviving husbands as against wives. In saying that, I accept that since most married couples, who are jointly assessed, continue to opt for the husband as the "assessable person", the tax charge is more likely, in practice, to affect the woman.

Approaches have been made directly to the Revenue Commissioners on this issue and they are currently reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward proposals at an early date to eliminate the anomaly.

In the interim, if the Deputy has concerns in relation to any particular case, the details should be made available to the Revenue Commissioners at Dublin Castle.