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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 23 Jun 2005

Vol. 180 No. 25

Matter raised under Standing Order 30.

I thank the Government Whip for standing in to replace the Leader during discussion of this matter raised under Standing Order 30, which I also mentioned on the Order of Business. As the Senators are aware, vast sums of money are raised by the Revenue Commissioners through stamp duty as a result of the significant increase in house prices in recent years. In recognition of the way in which first-time buyers have been priced out of the housing market, in December's budget the Government finally moved to introduce some relief for first-time house buyers. That was something we called for on this side of the House, along with many others outside the House.

It is with alarm that I discovered that the Revenue Commissioners have issued guidelines to the financial institutions stating that to qualify for the relief, the entirety of the purchased moneys, including any borrowings, must be provided by the first-time buyer. Any person who provides part of the purchased moneys, or who is party to any borrowing relating to such purchase is also regarded as a buyer of the house and relief will not be available, unless that person is a first-time buyer.

It is the case that many financial institutions are demanding that first-time buyers have a guarantor and a co-lender in the name of a family member or a guardian. This is now being interpreted by the Revenue Commissioners as meaning that the first-time buyer is not entitled to the full relief on the duty.

This is an abominable situation and it means that first time buyers are now being hit unknown to themselves for a bill of €9,000 to €15,000, as Senator Ulick Burke informed me this morning. It is a deliberate attempt by the Revenue Commissioners to misinterpret and misread an Act of the Oireachtas, the Finance Act, which was passed by both Houses earlier this year, as a means of giving some help and relief to first-time buyers. I am glad to hear that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance will meet with the Revenue Commissioners about this point. If it requires the introduction of additional legislation, let us have it by the end of next week to clarify the matter.

Financial institutions demanding additional verification on the part of family members and friends to ensure that the first-time buyer is given the full borrowings to allow him or her to buy the house is not the same as suggesting that the family member or friend owns a part of the asset. That is the crucial point which has to be clarified as soon as possible. I thank the Acting Chairman for allowing me to raise this matter under Standing Order 30.

I had indications from other speakers, but unfortunately, under Standing Order 30, only the mover can speak.

Sitting suspended at 12.55 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.