Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Residential Property Tax.

Michael McDowell

Question:

11 Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to reform residential property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8732/96]

Helen Keogh

Question:

24 Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to reform residential property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8587/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 24 together.

The programme A Government of Renewal indicated that the future of residential property tax would be considered in the context of a professional study of local Government financing which is at present being undertaken by my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin.

I will evaluate all aspects of residential property tax in light of the findings of the study when completed.

It is regrettable that the section of my question dealing with local taxation and charges was ruled out of order.

Does the Minister agree that three-quarters of yield from the residential property tax is paid by a small number of people in the Dublin area and that it is grossly unfair, anti-family and arbitrary in its application? Does he also agree that one of its most unfair consequences is that because of a fluctuation in house property values the residential property tax of a person with a house worth £110,000 could double this year because of factors outside his or her control? Does he agree it is time to get rid of this tax rather than postpone consideration of its merits until local government finances are dealt with?

The Government is committed in its programme A Government of Renewal to examine the question of local government taxation and, consequently, residential property tax, but it would be prejudicial to say anything in advance of the publication of the study being carried out by the Minister for the Environment.

The Minister could take this opportunity to say the residential property is grossly unfair and that it is paid by people in Dublin who live in similar circumstances and pay the same income tax as people who live elsewhere but do not pay the property tax. He could also take this opportunity to say the characteristic of the tax, which could involve doubling one's liability in a given year due to circumstances outside one's control, make it a fundamentally unfair tax. Irrespective of local government taxation, will the Minister agree that the residential property tax is anti-family in that it affects people whose sons and daughters live in the family home but on whose incomes the parents do not have a claim?

I would be surprised if parents did not have a claim on the incomes of children for whom they provide shelter and sustenance. I could think of nothing more corrosive to family values than a relationship between parents and children such as that described by the Deputy.

That is the position.

Any taxation system would not improve the position if the people involved do not assume some liability for the upkeep and maintenance of the properties in which they live.

Residential property tax has existed since 1983. The Deputy's party was in Government for a considerable period during that time and, as far as I am aware, was remarkably silent on the issue. It found no anti-family bias in its operation when Deputy O'Malley was busy in the Department of Industry and Commerce or when Deputy Molloy was busy in the Department of Energy. This new found conversion to its opposition by Deputy McDowell, which is not necessarily shared with a similar vehemence by some of his parliamentary colleagues, strikes me as somewhat odd having regard to the extraordinary silence during the time his senior colleagues were in Cabinet and he was their commentator and cheer leader before being elected to the House.

Does the Minister agree that we sought to involve all the parties in this House in a multi-party consultation to get rid of the residential property tax and that the Minister's party agreed to participate, but his senior partners in the rainbow coalition refused to do so? Does he agree that was the reason progress was not made on this issue between 1989 and 1992?

I do not accept that. Given the alterations in the amounts of money to be provided for other aspects of Government policy and in view of the vehemence of the Progressive Democrats Party in proposing to remove this tax, it is extraordinary that its new found enthusiasm for its removal is in marked contrast to its acquiescence and silence while in Government.

Time for Priority Questions is exhausted but the new regulations permit us to take the remaining two questions under the category "other questions".

Will these questions be treated as if they were ordinary questions?