Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee and Remaining Stages

I welcome the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, to the House and from this perch wish him a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

SECTION 1

Amendment No. 1 in the names of Senators Ó Clochartaigh, Cullinane and Reilly is out of order as it is not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. Amendment No. 2 in the name of Senator Ó Clochartaigh and others is out of order as it is declaratory. Section 1 is opposed by Senator Ó Clochartaigh and others.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, our amendments that were ruled out of order sought to highlight the alternatives available to the Government in terms of the property tax. We oppose the property tax, which is not necessarily a property tax but a family home tax. Under our amendment No. 1 the Minister could have explored the possibility of introducing a wealth tax. Last year he said that a French-style wealth tax would yield up to €500 million a year and he has said that the tax that will be introduced in this legislation will also bring in €500 million in a full year. By the Minister's own admission, therefore, he could have introduced a French-style wealth tax. Since he made that statement the French Government has strengthened its wealth tax laws and it expects that yield to double in the coming year. A wealth tax is part of economies across Europe. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and France operate successful wealth tax systems. Spain recently introduced a wealth tax and the leading opposition party in Germany, which is a sister party to the Labour Party, has published legislation and is committed to introducing a wealth tax if elected this September.

We believe a 1% wealth tax on net wealth, excluding 20% of the family home, business assets, pension pots and all debts and liabilities would not only raise more revenue than the tax being introduced in this Bill but would do so in a way that is fair and without damaging the domestic economy. It would be a much better option than the one before the House today.

The second amendment to this section, which has also been ruled out of order by the Cathaoirleach, sought to change the name of the Bill. We believe the current title is incorrect. The tax being proposed is not a tax on property but a tax on the family home. If it was a tax on property it would include all buildings, land, stocks, shares, dividends, savings, yachts, cars and art collections. Under current law, all of those assets are considered property but the only property the Minister is seeking to tax in this legislation is the family home. Why not be up-front and honest about that? He should call it a family home tax. Why is he trying to conceal that? Is it an embarrassment to the Government that the Minister is taxing people's homes? If that is the case, why not be up-front with people about it?

I am disappointed these amendments have been ruled out of order, especially amendment No. 2, which seeks to give the Bill its proper title. We will oppose this section.

On section 1, I support much of what has been said by Senator Reilly, particularly on the wording of this legislation. What is happening is that the report commissioned in 2006-07 was followed by the introduction by the previous Government of a tax on second homes. That is now being annulled. There is now no tax on the second home. One can have two, three, four, five or six homes, but one will not have to pay the extra €200 per house on the second or third home. What is happening is that the principal primary residence - in other words, the family home - is being taxed. I accept that if one has a second or third house it will be taxed also, but there is no additional taxation measure on a subsequent property. The primary family home, therefore, is taxed as an additional property.

The family home tax title proposed by Sinn Féin may not be exactly right, but what is proposed is a home tax. The home may not be a family home but it is a home tax because someone lives in the house. There are exemptions in the Bill which exclude developers, but I am not sure if NAMA properties are excluded. We did not get an answer to that on Second Stage but I would like to know if NAMA is included. Does NAMA have to pay the property tax? I am sure the Minister will clarify that in his address.

The Sinn Féin argument for a wealth tax on property is something that should be explored. I would be opposed to the introduction of a taxation measure on farm lands, farm buildings, farm structures or capital from which people derive an income or provide employment, but it is an idea that should be explored. The Minister may know the figures in terms of what the Sinn Féin proposals would yield. I am not sure what that would be but I pose the question in the hope the Minister might be able to answer it. This is not a property tax; it is a home tax.

We must consider what happened in France when it introduced the 75% tax on income. Liquid assets were moved across the border into Belgium within hours. That is what Sinn Féin would do. It would drive the remaining assets in the country out of it immediately. That would be the unintended consequence of its action. It talks about a tax on farm land. I do not know if that would go down well in rural Ireland. Its proposed new section refers to assets over €1 million. Regardless of how bad our circumstances are now, Sinn Féin would make them a lot worse. It is a crazy idea in view of the position we are in now. If we put a tax on liquid assets in this country they will disappear. Sinn Féin is talking about taxing illiquid assets, which it says would bring in €500 million in a full year. As we said yesterday, if the choice is between €500 million from this measure or an increase which would bring in €15.7 billion in income tax, that is an easy choice.

I will be brief. First, in terms of legalities, it cannot be called a family home tax because it encompasses property that is not the family home. For the sake of argument, it encompasses rental properties and a number of other forms of property.

Second, yesterday I posed a question as to whether this was genuinely a local property tax, but following a conversation with the Minister's adviser I was satisfied that it would be a local property tax, that the money that was spent in my locality would go back to my locality - not in 2013 but in 2014 - and that there would be some redistribution to other areas of the country where the taxes would not be sufficient to pay for local amenities and so forth.

The reality is twofold. First, it is not correct to call this a family home tax because it covers more than the family home. Second, it is what it says it is; a local property tax for the provision of local services. I could not support the amendments.

The Title is correct. First, it is a tax. Second, it is a tax on property. The receipts from the tax will be spent locally and, therefore, local property tax is the name for it. As Senators have pointed out, it applies to property portfolios as well which are held for investment purposes and rented. If somebody has 30 apartments and rents them, the liability for tax is not on the occupier but on the owner. It stretches well beyond the family home situation.

Neither members of Sinn Féin nor members of Fianna Fáil are in a strong position in arguing the case here because the average property tax in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Féin is a partner in government, is just over €900 and there appears to be no objection to that. It seems Sinn Féin has a partitionist attitude to this tax.

Fianna Fáil's position is that it negotiated the provisions of the property tax with the troika when it was in government. When it presented its alternative budget it proposed that the flat rate household charge be maintained.

In terms of principle, Fianna Fáil is in favour of a property tax and I do not believe there should be flat-rate property taxes. It was done for one year to introduce the concept. By and large, taxes on property should be related to the value of the property because in general terms that corresponds to ability to pay, when the deferrals are taken into account.

We do not agree with the proposition for a wealth tax. Sinn Féin has it in its alternative budget, but the yield it claims would run from it is totally exaggerated. Sinn Féin did not take the opportunity to have these items costed by the Department of Finance. There was an offer to the Opposition of costing by the Department of Finance, but Sinn Féin did not take it up.

Much of the yield from the wealth tax in France derives from the family home. The cut-off point is €500,000 for all assets, including savings, pensions and property - everything goes in. As in most parts of Paris a two-bedroom apartment might cost €800,000, €900,000 or €1 million, it is clear that family homes and family apartments go straight into the wealth tax net. The French wealth tax is largely a family home tax. People are quite used to the concept of this kind of tax, which applies throughout Europe. Ireland is the outlier, the exception. Many reasonably well-off people in Ireland have properties in Spain, Portugal or the south of France and do not seem to have any problem paying the local property tax on those. The same principles apply here.

We cannot keep taxing income because a tax on income is a tax on work. The higher we put the price of something the less we get. We must stop taxing work and broaden the tax base. People's incomes may not be immediately identifiable, but if they have a very large mansion it is very identifiable and it is possible to broaden the tax base that way, which is worth doing. I do not believe this will be a serious imposition on anybody because the thinking behind the tax is that everybody will pay something with very few exclusions. With a base of 1.9 million units, it is possible to have quite a low average on this. We are tying in both the valuations and the rates for three years. There will be no revaluation until November.

We are strengthening the local element of the tax by giving discretion to the local authorities to vary the tax by plus or minus 15%. In practice, candidates in the local elections in 2014 will propose to their electorates either that they will leave the tax the same or that they will increase or reduce it. When they vote for the next set of councillors, the public will have a direct say on whether they want property tax to increase or decrease. If this becomes a stable element of the tax code, future governments may decide to entrust the entire scheme to local authorities, which would be normal enough. In the first instance and as long as we are in government, this will be a tax to be collected by the Revenue Commissioners and put into the local government fund to be spent locally on local services. There will be a direct relationship between the level of tax collected in an area and the amount of money spent on the services in that area.

I have the utmost respect for the Minister, Deputy Noonan, who is a reforming Minister and works very hard at his job, but he is wrong on this issue. It is unfair to blame Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil. It is unfair to blame Government Members who may also have issues in this regard. I can speak only on behalf of Fianna Fáil. We put forward a fully costed alternative budget that did not include a property tax.

No; Fianna Fáil included a flat-rate tax in its budget.

The question of alternatives was raised.

We are dealing with section 1, the Short Title and the commencement of the Bill. Yesterday there was criticism that we spent an hour on the same section in a different Bill. Members should be mindful that they should deal with the more substantive issues. There are so many amendments that I do not believe we will reach all of them.

I agree and I do not intend to dwell on this issue. However, when accusations are thrown, we should have an opportunity to respond.

The Senator has made his point, as has the Sinn Féin speaker, and the Minister has responded.

The alternatives proposed by Fianna Fáil did not include a property tax and still addressed the €3.5 billion adjustment. Has the Minister had discussions with the troika on the property tax? This will absolutely crucify home owners throughout the country.

I must rule the Senator out of order. We cannot have a Second Stage speech.

With respect to the Senator-----

The Minister has made his position clear.

I wish to correct something. With respect, the Fianna Fáil alternative budget submission included a flat-rate tax, as applies in 2012.

The income was different.

It is possible to vary the yield.

It was completely different.

I believe the yield of the proposed tax was €120 million, which was confirmed by the Fianna Fáil spokesman in the Dáil, Deputy Michael McGrath, when I debated this issue with him on budget night on the "Prime Time" programme. There is no question but that there was a property tax.

There is a difference of €380 million.

Please allow the Minister to respond.

The Senator asked me one question that I did not answer. NAMA, if it is the owner, will carry the same obligations as any other owner.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 16.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 2

Amendment No. 3 is in the name of Senator van Turnhout. Amendments Nos. 3 and 16 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 9, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

" "Act of 2003" means the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003;".

I referred to this issue on Second Stage and do not want to take up too much time today. The Minister has stated that in principle the properties that I have raised in these categories, those held by trusts for children and youth activities, would be exempt in a similar manner to that of the household charge. I would prefer to hear from the Minister first.

Senator van Turnhout seeks an exemption for residential properties owned by discretionary trusts and charities. The Thornhill group expressed concern that the exemption provided for in the household charge legislation for discretionary trusts was a potential vehicle for tax avoidance. It considered that it would be relatively easy for a property owner to place the ownership of properties into a discretionary trust and for the trustees to rent the house back to the person setting up the trust or to a family member for a nominal or no rent.

As regards Senator van Turnhout's amendment of an exemption for charitable bodies, the Thornhill group considered that the local property tax should be centred on principles of equity, transparency and simplicity. Accordingly, I consider that a universal liability should apply to all owners of residential property with a limited number of exemptions. In an effort to keep the rate of tax low and to ensure equity between taxpayers, the Government decided to minimise the number of exemptions to the tax and to limit deferral arrangements to cases where there is a real and material inability to pay the tax.

There will not be a blanket exemption for charitable bodies and in this context, the recommendation to provide an exemption for local authority or social housing providers was limited to special need cases. In practice, the majority of housing provided by registered charities would be expected to be exempt from the tax as it is provided to those who require special accommodation and support to enable them to live in the community. Revenue will be providing guidelines in this regard.

I understand Senator van Turnhout's interest is related to her association with the Irish Girl Guides, which organisation owns some properties which are used for breaks and holidays for members. I appreciate that groups such as the girl guides and many other organisations in the community and voluntary sector provide facilities and work with young people and with other sectors for social and personal development purposes. Such organisations were granted exemption from the household charge for the buildings in question and I am disposed to ensuring that the exemption would continue. The matter will be examined and will be dealt with in the finance Bill.

I will not accept the amendment as currently cast because I will not give a blanket exemption to discretionary trusts. However, I will examine the possibility of extending an exemption to bodies such as the girl guides in the context of the finance Bill.

That should be music to Senator van Turnhout's ears.

I appreciate the Minister's answer and will await the finance Bill.

I congratulate Senator van Turnhout.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 4 is in the name of Senator Barrett. Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 10, line 7, to delete "the" and substitute "a distortion-free".

My amendments refer to the price in the "open market". I suppose the background to this amendment, which is offered in the spirit of suggestion to the Minister if it is of use to him in the finance Bill or elsewhere, and on which I will not seek a vote, is to ask him what is the open market value of a house. My view is we should let prices fall. It would improve the competitiveness of the economy. However, for other purposes which I understand and appreciate, such as not having to bail out the banks again, we have allowed ghost estates, NAMA's intervention in the property market and forbearance which has other good side effects, but it means that the taxation of an individual under the Bill is based on a price that is being artificially kept high and, in general, is not related to the ability to pay of the person in the house. It would be better, for economic reasons, if the price fell. It would also mean that the liability under this tax would fall.

I am trying to get a handle on what is the open market price. It is seriously distorted upwards by the policy measures to which I referred. I ask the Minister to consider whether an adjustment downwards in people's liability to the tax is justified by the current state of the property market.

I compliment Senator Barrett because the main talking point around the country on the property tax is how we will value our homes. There are so many developments in the property market, for example, banks are selling houses off very cheaply.

Senator Barrett spoke more on the other side of the equation, referring to policy measures which, he states, distort the market the other way, but people are asking how they will value their house. People tell me that no house has sold in my area for the past number of years, except one that was repossessed at a very low price, and they will need considerable guidance.

I have looked at average property values in towns across my constituency, but only in one town were there 50 or more properties sold. One is looking at a small sample of properties. In one town, the valuation looks quite low but there were many low-priced houses sold. Those who think their house is worth more would look at this and say that their property is worth much less by comparison, and might get a shock. In other towns, they will get a shock when they see the sale of properties and the prices that they are going for on average, but they do not know the type of property being sold - whether it is a five-bedroom detached house or a three-bedroom semi-detached house. There is little guidance available. The property price register is good in so far as it goes but it does not give the detail necessary to allow people to value their homes. The question of what constitutes market value, which we oppose as a basis for the tax as we oppose the tax itself, is on the tip of people's tongues all around the country. It really needs to be addressed and clarified in the best possible way.

On valuation of the property, in my experience open market value would be defined as sale within a reasonable time, perhaps three or four months. Like other Senators, I had queries from constituents who asked how would one value a property that was valued at €500,000 five years ago.

There are two ways of valuing a property. One is comparable valuation where the house next door was sold, but that is not very accurate at present. The other is the cost of rebuilding, that is, the cost of bricks and mortar plus the site value, where the site value creates the difficulty with valuation.

Will the Minister clarify whether self-assessment will be the method used by everyone or will there be guidelines from Revenue or the Department stating that in a town, such as Letterkenny, most properties will be within a certain band? There is a difficulty in valuing a property because finance is not available. However, every property has a value. As I said to someone, if he was left a property and wanted to dispose of it reasonably quickly, there would be a market value on it.

What that value is now is difficult to pinpoint. There needs to be clarity in areas where sales, particularly in country areas, can be non-existent for several years. Will self-assessment be allowed? What discretion has the occupier?

Ireland is one of the few countries in the world that does not have some form of property tax. The big talking point, as Senator Byrne touched on, is how we value property. To me the open market seems the best option but as Senator Barrett explained, it has to be distortion free. It will be a challenge and will probably lead to more debate and legal steps. Senator Barrett's suggestion is the best approach.

This amendment cuts straight to the faults of the Bill. We are living in an era of a distorted property market and no one really knows the value of property. The value of property should be based on the ability of an individual to buy it. However, there are few buyers because the banks are not lending and no one is in a financial position to purchase property.

Recently, a four-bedroom house in Donegal was sold at auction for €30,000. Fianna Fáil tabled a parliamentary question on this and other houses around the country which sold at the same value. Will all similar properties in this Donegal town, a lucrative and well developed town, also have to pay €90 in a full year on property tax? Will those homeowners be in compliance with the law? Revenue will publish its documentation based on stamp duty figures. That is flawed because these figures are out of date in the current market. There is no stamp duty transaction based on the past ten years in the current market. Property valuations have to be based on what the sale price will be today, not on the stamp duty valuations in the past. Will owners of such homes be hit with a liability of an interest penalty when they sell the property ten years from now based on Revenue's assumption of what the valuation could be? We need clarity on this matter. I commend Senator Barrett for tabling this amendment because it cuts to the chase of what this tax is all about. It is a tax on the sale value of a property. However, no one is in a position to sell because none of the banks will provide mortgages to potential buyers.

This is a fundamental plank in the Bill and I can see the motivation behind Senator Barrett's attempt to deal with the distortions in the market. Valuations of property will vary. Why was there no consideration given to regional guidelines on a square footage cost? In the past, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government used to supply certificates of reasonable value which were used to value properties that were sold.

Everyone agrees that it is difficult in the current property cycle to accurately value residential properties. It strikes me that the €50,000 band is too narrow in that regard. There should be some consideration given to having the bands wider in order that there is greater scope to have the valuation accurate. I agree with Senator Ó Domhnaill on the issue of contingent liability if someone unintentionally misvalues a property.

Does this section contradict section 14? This section deals with the chargeable value and the market value of properties. If someone buys a property six months after the first tax is paid on it, he or she will have to pay that original tax for the following three years when the actual price of the house will be established by the actual sale. That seems a contradiction.

Senator Barrett seeks to amend the definition of chargeable value of residential property to the price the unencumbered fee simple of the property might reasonably fetch on a sale in a distortion-free open market were the property to be sold on a particular date. The Thornhill group recommended that market value of residential properties should be the basis for the assessment for the tax. Full market value is a tried and tested basis of assessment that is internationally accepted. This is underlined by the fact that it is so widely used internationally and, by implication, is readily understood by taxpayers all over the world. At any point in time, most homeowners will have a reasonable sense of the market value of the home in which they live by reference to recent sales and to officially and privately published data on house price movements. One would expect distortions, to which Senator Barrett referred, tended towards increasing the market value of a house or the price paid for it would be reflected in the self-assessment by the property owner and, consequently, a higher property tax payment.

Where there is a doubt in individual cases, estimates can be obtained from professional auctioneers or valuers. The initial valuation of property to be self-assessed by liable persons as of 1 May 2013 will be valid up to and including 2016. This will provide certainty for taxpayers. Revenue will provide guidance on how to value a property early next year. It will engage in a comprehensive information campaign, including writing to residential property owners in March 2013 enclosing a detailed explanatory booklet on the operation of local property tax, valuation procedures and the payment methods, as well as a return form for completion. Where taxpayers follow Revenue's guidance honestly, Revenue will accept their property value assessment. The register of residential property sales published by the Property Services Regulatory Authority will be of assistance in valuing property.

I am aware of the current difficulties in the residential property market.

I have attempted to bring some stimulus to the market by way of limited exemptions from the property tax for purchasers of new and previously unused properties purchased between 1 January 2013 and the end of 2016. Such properties will be exempt until the end of 2016. There is a further exemption in respect of second-hand properties purchased by first-time buyers between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013, which will also be exempt until the end of 2016.

It is quite legitimate for the Government to intervene in the property market in order to achieve policy ends. Mortgage interest relief and interest relief for landlords both distort the property market to some extent. Other policy measures such as varying stamp duty rates in order to cool or stimulate the market or the current capital gains tax relief for properties bought from December 2011 to December 2013 also distort the market. The property market in Ireland was considerably distorted in the past by oversupply of financing to certain sectors. This probably created a far greater distortion than any measures undertaken by the Government or the National Asset Management Agency. This form of distortion is not catered for in Senator Barrett's amendment. For example, it is not clear how precisely the distortion-free market value to which it refers will be arrived at. This will make it impossible to determine with certainty what will be the assessable value of the property for tax purposes. The latter would undermine a core principle of taxation, namely, that what someone is being taxed on and what is his or her liability should be certain and clear. I am not, therefore, disposed to accept the amendments.

On the questions posed by Senators, according to Revenue, some 90% of houses in the country are valued at €300,000 or less. The bulk of property tax will, therefore, be paid in respect of amounts from €300,000 down. If we introduce bands of €50,000, then most people will have a fair shot at placing an X beside the band which applies to them. We are not asking someone to indicate that his or her house is worth €176,000, we are asking him or her to estimate whether it is valued at between €150,000 and €200,000. The latter is a much easier question to answer and most people will have a reasonable shot at it. If anyone is in doubt, he or she can have an auctioneer value the property and obtain from him or her a letter which can be included with the return. Revenue will provide extensive information on the value of houses in particular localities. It has been accumulating an amount of information in this regard since late spring, when it was first asked to take on the task of collecting the property tax.

It is much more reasonable to introduce a property tax at the bottom of the market rather than at the top. If the property tax had been introduced in 2007, what has happened to property values in the interim would have ensured that a major imposition was placed on householders. At least we are building from the bottom up at this point. The market has stabilised, certainly in Dublin where values have risen marginally for three of the past four months. Money is available again and Bank of Ireland in particular is providing quite a number of mortgages and AIB is following it into the market. Some new overseas banks are also operating in the Dublin market. This sector of the economy was damaged but it is being repaired on a progressive basis. I do not believe there is a major difficulty in the context of people having a view on what their homes are worth. If one lives in a housing estate, it will probably be easier to value one's home. If someone low balls in respect of the value of his or her home and states that it is worth €50,000, while his or her neighbours value theirs at €250,000, this will stick out a mile in the returns when Revenue is carrying out its review. That person might be required to explain why his or her house was of such a uniquely low value. I accept that there might be a reason for this but an explanation will have to be provided.

The difficulty with regard to valuations will arise in respect of one-off houses. Many such houses are unique in nature and there can be a variation in value between two houses located next to each other, despite the fact that the square footage, etc., of both might be similar. I trust Revenue to come to terms with this matter. The first step from its point of view is to get people to self-assess the value of their homes in order that it can get the register up and running. The Revenue can iron out the distortions as time goes by. Anyone who, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, completes his or her form honestly will not be chased for penalties or anything of that nature. He or she may be written to if it appears that the value submitted is excessively low. However, such an individual will not have penalty clauses or anything of that nature invoked against him or her.

I would like the property market to rise again. I hope it will do so. Regardless of whether it does, there will be no revaluation until November 2016. That is the reason for the apparent competition between the sections to which Senator Walsh drew attention. What we are saying is that if someone values his or her house and if he or she sells it six months later - even at a higher price - the valuation for property tax which has been accepted by Revenue will apply until the general revaluation date. That is an acceptable way to approach this matter. We want to keep it simple, ensure certainty and have the tax collected. In addition, we want it to contribute to the taxation base. Income taxes are at a high level and we do not want to drive them up further. The latter are taxes on work. If one were to identify all of the problems we face, the one that is most in need of remediation is the high level of unemployment which obtains. When the price of something goes up, one tends to get less of it. That also applies to work. If one taxes work, one will get less of it. As soon as we have the resources available to us, it would be our policy to reduce rather than increase personal taxes. When this happens, we want to broaden the base and introduced other taxes similar to that under discussion.

The property tax places a low enough imposition on people. When one considers the various tables, etc., one will come to the conclusion that, particularly in view of the deferrals which will be in place, it will not be penal in respect of anyone. There are always cases where an inability to pay applies. However, the deferral system should cater for these.

I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome what he said. If, as happened in the past, a banker were to become deranged and pay a wild price for a house in a neighbourhood located not too far from the Oireachtas, I presume this will not affect the liabilities of everyone else in said neighbourhood. From what the Minister indicated, I understand that the price paid by the banker would not become the lead value for the neighbourhood. Will Revenue take the view that the individual in question had more money than brains and that he overpaid massively for the house in question? If it does not take such a view, those who live in the neighbourhood in question will be concerned because their incomes have not increased and they bought their houses to live in rather than as an investment. I appreciate the Minister's point with regard to the fact that the low rate should not put distortions in place. I hope the system will pick up the sort of one-off cases to which I refer. I accept that someone might pay over the odds for a house in which his great-grandfather lived. Would this affect everyone else in the area? From what the Minister said, I believe it would not.

Revenue will try to establish what is a reasonable average price in respect of the houses in a particular area. It seems that it will be relatively simple for those who live in housing estates. With once-off houses, it is a little more difficult. In the context of houses in rural areas which are encumbered by farm buildings, slurry tanks or whatever, the market value would be lower because it is more difficult to dispose of them. On the other hand, there are some very big houses on large sites in rural areas and they will attract whatever value Revenue decides in respect of them. Revenue will give guidance in this regard and I am of the view that the system will work. The system will be one of self-assessment in accordance with guidelines. The fact that one will not be asked to decide the precise worth of one's house but that one will rather be obliged to place its value within a certain €50,000 band leads me to believe what we are attempting to do will work.

I agree with the Minister in respect of the fact that we are putting this system in place when property prices are low. The guidance the Revenue Commissioners will provide will be very helpful to people throughout the country. They will provide better advice than that offered by the previous Leader of the House on 10 April 2008.

He stated:
Now is the right time to buy ... We have a duty to tell first-time house buyers, young couples with no previous experience, that there is unbelievable value in the marketplace today. It will not last forever. It is never the wrong time to do the right thing. I offer the House the benefit of my experience and my opinion which is all any Member can do. I will remind the House, perhaps in 12 or 18 months, when prices have again increased by 25% or 30%, that they were told this by the Leader of the House on this historic day.
I am confident that the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will give better advice than the former Leader of the House.

I thank the Senator for that anecdote.

The research office is obviously working very well. I was not present at the time in question and certainly did not say that.

We have 155 sections to get through.

As I said on Second Stage, I bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Dublin for €580,000 in 2007 and know all about it. That is our position.

My question relates to the Minister's response on exemptions, not that on charities. When the measure is introduced, a review will be important. A fundamental mistake is to provide for exemptions, for specified periods, for first-time buyers and the purchasers of new or vacant houses. Without making any prediction on future values, most independent experts, people involved in the property market and lay people such as me recognise the value to be had. I find it hard to marry the provision for an exemption for those who can afford to buy good quality houses with the failure to provide one for others.

The Government is proposing that someone who buys a house in a certain estate for €200,000 with a very sustainable mortgage should be exempt from the property tax, provided the house meets certain criteria, while a person who had to pay €500,000 for the same type of standard house in the same estate and who may be struggling to pay his or her mortgage should not be exempt. The same applies to a new house. I really do not understand this and believe it would have been better to consider exemptions for the tens of thousands who paid large amounts of stamp duty, as referred to in the Thornhill report. I understand the Minister's difficulty in that people who pay must pay more to cover exemptions, but I make this point on the basis that he is providing for an exemption for those who can – fair play to them – buy good houses at a great discount of 50% or 60%. The latter are winning in both ways. I am not trying to crucify the people concerned, but I do not understand the logic in doing what is proposed, considering that those who paid more and paid stamp duty will not be exempt.

The Minister has stated it is appropriate for the Government to use measures to try to stimulate the housing market. I am not actually sure, based on what occurred when Governments did get involved. I recall the clamour in 2002 and 2003 when there was an insufficient supply of houses. There was a general discussion before I became a Member of the fact that not enough houses were being built. The market went nuts from approximately 2005 or 2006.

The Senator is wandering a little.

I may be, but perhaps the Minister might explain the exemption for those who will now be buying houses at half the price paid by others who, in many instances, paid stamp duty. Those who did not pay stamp duty and bought brand new houses paid considerable sums in VAT. This is never discussed in the debate. I do not understand the Minister's policy.

I remind Senators that there are 155 sections and we are still on section 2. I hate to impose on Senators, but that is the position. I call Senator Terry Brennan. Since he is from the wee county, I am sure he will be very concise.

That will be no problem. Yesterday I asked in the Minister's absence about the collection of the property tax. The question was not answered yesterday. People may wish to pay by way of deferred payments, perhaps on a monthly basis. Who will do the collecting? Will it be existing staff in the Revenue Commissioners or will new staff be taken on? Will jobs be created?

Yesterday I referred to three public representatives from Northern Ireland, two of whom I met in the Houses yesterday. One lives in an affluent part of Belfast and pays almost £2,000 in household rates. This is the equivalent of €2,400. The second man who lives on the outskirts of Newry pays £1,400. The third pays €1,700. There is a significant difference between what is charged for one house and the next. I acknowledge that those living in more affluent places pay more.

How will collection be achieved? Will it be through direct debit? Will there be a deferred payment arrangement for those who cannot afford to pay a lump sum? How will the revenue benefit local authorities? Will the Minister confirm that the money will be spent in respective local authorities and be a major boost to those that have insufficient operating revenue?

I will not be pressing amendments Nos. 4 and 6 and thank the Minister for the clarity of his reply. I hope that in time it will allay fears throughout the country. It is a pity the people cannot actually hear what the Minister is saying because he has put many fears at rest.

There were a couple of questions. The value of the charge will not be based on stamp duty paid. It is incorrect to contend that it will. The charge will be determined in the manner I explained.

When the Government made its decision in July, additional resources were allocated to the Revenue Commissioners for the employment of additional staff in the central unit to administer the charge. Generally, there are many ways of paying the tax. One could pay it by cash, cheque, credit or debit card, or have it deducted from one's salary. For the 1.8 million who work, the easiest approach is to accept a weekly deduction if one is paid by the week or a fortnightly deduction if one is paid by the fortnight, etc. The Revenue Commissioners will make the deduction and the tax will be collected in the same way as PRSI or the universal social charge. It will be another deduction from a wage or salary. This is not a compulsory means of payment. If people opt to pay through deductions, that is how it will be done, but there is nothing to stop someone sending a cheque to the Revenue Commissioners for the whole amount on the due date. The only point to remember is that the default arrangement will be a deduction from wages, salaries or any payment from the State to the individual. A direct farm payment, for example, is an obvious example.

Senator Darragh O'Brien asked about the logic of the exemptions for first-time buyers and those with empty houses.

There might be good value in the market now but value is not a fixed issue. There is no value if one buys today and the price reduces by a further 20%. The purpose of this measure is to try to repair the property market. Last year, I introduced additional mortgage interest relief for people who purchased houses in 2012. This has worked well during the last three or four months. We are now coming to the end of the year and people are scrambling to get their transactions completed. I stated several times previously that this would not be continued. However, so as not to risk the property market coming to a halt again, I have introduced incentives of a lesser value. It is hoped these will keep the property market going. That is the logic of this measure. Estates wherein only one third of the properties are occupied are not in anybody's interest. It is hoped this incentive will assist in the sale of the remaining houses, thus turning ghost estates into living communities. Some measures work and others do not. However, they are well worth trying. That is the justification for this measure.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, line 12, to delete "sale;" and substitute the following:

"sale, net of the following:

(a) any outstanding liabilities on the mortgage of the relevant residential property,

(b) the total value of stamp duty paid following the purchase of the relevant residential property where it was bought on or after 2000,

(c) the value accruing to the relevant residential property arising from any adaptations to the property for the purposes of making it suitable for a person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental health difficulty to live in,

and where the relevant residential property is in negative equity, the chargeable value shall be the current market value of the relevant property on the valuation date less the value of the property at the time of purchase as expressed in the full value of the mortgage taken out at the time of purchase;”.

This amendment also seeks to add to the definition of chargeable value as discussed in the debate on amendment No. 4. Sinn Féin has a problem with the definition of the gross market value of the home. In basing the tax on the gross market value the Minister is failing to take account of a wide range of issues central to any true valuation in that regard. For example, account is not taken of the outstanding amount of the mortgage or negative equity or that in such cases the tax could be considered a tax on debt as opposed to a tax on an asset.

Account is also not taken of any increase in the gross value of the home as a result of adaptations to make the property suitable for people with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities or mental health difficulties. This amendment to the definition of chargeable value seeks to make calculation of the value of the family home a net value, taking into account some of the liabilities such as negative equity, adaptations to the house and so on as provided for in paragraph (c). That a person would be punished because a member of his or her family is disabled, is morally wrong. Such adaptations are not a luxury, rather they are a necessity. It is unacceptable that such works would be taken into consideration in calculation of the value of the home. It is unfair that a family home will be levied on the basis of the gross value of the property, in particular if that property does not have a value.

Fianna Fáil has tabled a number of similar amendments to section 10.

The Senator cannot discuss those amendments now.

I do not intend to.

The Senator will cause mayhem if he speaks to amendments to later sections.

That is the last thing I would want to do.

I am not so sure.

I am interested in hearing the Minister's response to this amendment, in particular paragraph (c), which relates to adaptations to houses, including the installation of downstairs showers and so on for disabled people. Later amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil relate to negative equity and stamp duty, which we can discuss when we reach them.

This amendment seeks to provide that account be taken of outstanding liabilities. In other words, where a property is valued at €100,000, on which the mortgage is €90,000, the remaining €10,000 will be the amount on which property tax liability will be based, which sounds straightforward. However, there are many properties worth €2 million to €3 million, on which the mortgages are large but the owners of which are earning €500,000 per annum. In most cases, negative equity bears no relation to the person who occupies a house. I believe rich people rather than people on modest incomes would benefit were this amendment accepted. Where a person owns a house worth €2 million, on which the mortgage is €2 million, that does not mean that person is badly off rather it means he or she made a bad purchase choice. Such a person could be earning €1 million per annum. I do not believe we should exempt people from this tax just because they have a large mortgage, even though it would be deserving in particular cases. I do not believe this would be a good move as it would benefit those who are well off, leaving others to cover that loss.

This amendment is very relevant. As I see it, there are two issues involved. People with mortgages do not own their homes because the banks have a hold over them. The level of a person's mortgage generally reflects his or her wealth. In general, those who have high mortgages are first-time buyers. A person who sells his or her home for €200,000 and has a mortgage on it of €180,000, will only retain €20,000 from that sale. The legislation, as drafted, is a disincentive to any person who wants to upgrade his or her property. The property tax is fixed until 2016, with local authorities having the power to increases or decrease this by 15% in 2015. However, where an individual makes improvements to his or her home between now and 2016 this will add value to the property.

The particular group of people that comes to mind in terms of adaptations to property is the disabled. While grants for such adaptations are small they are of benefit to disabled people who cannot go upstairs and need to install a walk-in shower or bathroom downstairs. Where this is done, value will be added to the property. Post-2016 the saleable value of that home will have increased, resulting in an increase in property tax liability under this legislation. There is a need for a provision to protect the elderly and disabled in terms of adaptations to their properties. They do not undertake adaptations to add value to their homes rather they undertake them for mobility purposes. The alternative for such persons is to go into a nursing home, at a cost to the State of at least €1,300 or €1,400 per week in respect of any publicly funded nursing home in this country. It would be crazy to ask the people concerns to pay more when they are saving the State money in the long term. Perhaps the Minister might consider an exemption for the disabled and the elderly.

In the run-up to the budget, there was much discussion about fairness. The point made by Senator Harte can be easily undermined. For example, two people living in adjacent homes, one of whom is on a salary of 40% more than the other person and living in a rented property and will not be liable for the property tax and the other person, who is on the lower salary but is above the exemption limit and has a mortgage more than twice the value of the property, who will be liable for this tax. There is an element of inequity in the system. This amendment proposes that account be taken of the mortgage on a home.

That point is not addressed in the Bill. I am not saying it would be easy to address but it is a problem and it is inequitable tax application.

On the stamp duty, I agree with Senator O'Reilly in that regard. People bought at the height of the property boom, and also in recent years, and there should be some amelioration, perhaps a discount of 10% each year, in terms of the tax being paid to allow for the fact that they paid stamp duty at the higher rate. Arguments can be made for that which are founded on fairness. I urge the Minister to examine that issue between now and the publication of the Finance Bill to see if some amelioration can be given.

I thank the Senators. I have an extensive speaking note which I will read but Senator Ó Domhnaill made a point about the grants from local authorities with which we would all be familiar where some elderly person can no longer take the stairs because of a particular ailment and a bedroom with a shower and toilet is built downstairs aided by grants. The likelihood is that will not drive them into the next band. It should be remembered that the value is not on a precise figure. It is in the €50,000 band and the kind of extension the Senator is talking about would probably leave people in the same band if they did that kind of work. However, if an extensive costly extension was built on to a house in other circumstances that might take them up into the next band and that would be picked up in the next valuation date.

I will read the speaking note because it contains a lot of information. The amendment covers a number of issues - mortgage arrears, stamp duty, negative equity on houses adapted for disabled persons. Section 2 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill defines the chargeable value of residential property. On mortgage arrears the Senators are seeking to amend the section to ensure that the value of any outstanding liabilities in regard to a mortgage on a relevant residential property is deducted from the market value of the property before calculating the tax liability.

The Government agreed with the recommendations of the interdepartmental expert group on the design of the property tax, known as the Thornhill group, in its consideration that as a tax, the local property tax should be centred on the principles of equity, transparency and simplicity. In terms of these principles, it was also considered that a universal liability should apply to all owners of residential property, with a limited number of exemptions.

In making its recommendations for deferrals the group had regard to the following criteria: ability to pay - reliefs create costs which have to be paid for either by taxpayers who do not benefit from the relief or by a reduction in public expenditure; reliefs should be designed to address clear economic and social policy needs; and care needs to be taken in designing reliefs to ensure they are targeted based on need and are not unintended and inequitable distribution gains.

The local property tax is intended to be a tax on the benefits from ownership of a residential property. Such residential properties have monetary and non-monetary values which are independent of incomes, and the local property tax is not assessed on incomes. The system of deferrals outlined in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012 is more targeted in cases of need than a relief for outstanding mortgages and does have reference to income stressed homeowners, allowing enhanced deferrals where there is low income and liability to mortgage interest. An outstanding mortgage on a property does not mean that there is necessarily an inability to pay. Where there is inability to pay, relief is available in the form of a deferral. Mortgage interest relief is also available to many homeowners on interest up to €20,000 per annum. Individuals who bought properties since 2004 can continue to claim mortgage interest relief until 2017.

The Thornhill group recommended against providing for reliefs specifically related to stamp duty paid. In making its suggestions for deferrals, the group had regard to ability to pay - reliefs create costs which have to be paid for by other taxpayers. This is more or less a repeat of what I have said. The group recommended against allowances for stamp duty because it would not be targeted at need. The tax structure was known to house purchasers and so on. While some individuals have a significant stamp duty liability they may also be in a position to claim mortgage interest relief. We are dealing with the deferral situation there.

The Government also decided against using negative equity as a ground for deferral or waiver of the property tax. Instead, the deferral system was recommended by the Thornhill group report and is modified in the Bill and it focuses on the ability to pay the tax and is based on the income of the liable person. The fact that a house may be worth less than when it was bought does not necessarily mean that the owner cannot pay the tax.

The Government is conscious of the difficulty some homeowners are experiencing in meeting their mortgage obligations. The main focus of attention is on those mortgage holders who are experiencing genuine difficulty in meeting the commitments in respect of their home. It is to those that the large deferrals based on mortgage interest payments are directed.

The Senators are also seeking to amend the section to ensure that the valuation would be net of the value of any adaptation made to residential property to meet the needs of a person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental health difficulty. I have dealt with that issue.

In an effort to keep the rate of the tax low and ensure horizontal equity, that is, as between taxpayers, the Government decided to minimise the number of exemptions to the tax and limit deferral arrangements to cases where there is a real and material inability to pay. The initial valuation of the property to be assessed as on 1 May 2013 will be valid up to and including November 2016, and valuations will be valid for three-year periods thereafter.

Senator Walsh made some comments about equity. It comes down to one's concept of fairness. Sometimes an argument on fairness is made which seems to suggest there is a small group of very wealthy people and if we tax them enough, nobody else would have to pay anything. That is one well recited measure of fairness, but the concept of fairness for those of us who know their constituencies on a door-to-door basis, like many of the Senators here and for most people, is that everybody should pay something in accordance with their ability to pay. That is the fairness.

If we consider situations in large housing estates where 80% or 85% of social houses have been bought out and are owner occupied under the rental purchase schemes but 15% are tenants, it is only fair that the tenants in similar houses should not make some contribution, no matter how small, when everybody else in the same street who bought out their house is making a contribution. The same applies, and accentuates the sense of unfairness, where local authorities, as a matter of housing policy, and it is a housing policy with which I agree, go into a private housing estate, buy a house and put somebody in it as a tenant. It is not fair that that family should not pay something as well when everyone along the road who bought their houses and are paying heavy mortgages are paying also. If the Senator thinks of fairness in terms of everybody making some contribution, no matter how small, to the situation in which we find ourselves he will get a better idea of where I am coming from in the Bill.

I want to pick up on the issue of ability to pay and speak about valuations of which I have some knowledge. That will be a huge issue. In terms of ability to pay, which is what the amendment is about, some people paid their stamp duty up-front as part of their mortgage and, therefore, every month they paid back that stamp duty in their mortgage payment which they gave to the Government and which it took. It is a form of double taxation.

In terms of how people will do their own valuations, it will be a nightmare for the Government. It will put the €100 household charge into the shade, so to speak, because having been a valuer I know that if we ask people to value their own houses it will not work because various issues arise in that regard.

If one is living in Limerick and a farmer down the road has sheds all around his house, who would buy that farmhouse on its own with sheds around it? That is one of the issues that has not been thought out. The issue comes down to one's ability to pay the tax. Ability to pay is what one has in terms of one's income and not how much one's house is worth.

We all know that the abolition of the property tax in 1977 was the wrong step. It had huge consequences and it took a number of years to filter through the system but now we are taking an equally wrong measure at the wrong time in that we are foisting this tax on people who do not have the ability to pay it. Not everybody will be unable to pay it but many people who paid stamp duty in the past ten years feel they have already paid their property tax and that they pay it every month in their mortgage repayment. Account is not taken in the legislation of whether people have lost their jobs since they purchased their properties. All those are issues in determining one's ability to pay. The abolition of the property tax in 1977 was the worse taxation measure decision and it probably had the worst consequences in the 1980s of any measure taken. When people look back on this measure in a few years this decision to start taxing a depressed housing market with no account being taken of people's ability to pay will be considered the worst thing that could have been done in terms of taxation.

I do not believe the Minister was here when Senator Crown offered to pay more in income tax rather than pay this tax because that takes account of ability to pay. The Minister spoke about the Government not wanting to be seen to be taxing jobs and I understand that issue, but this measure boils down to one's ability to pay. People have paid stamp duty on their property and they are in financial difficulty. Tens of thousands of people in different categories will find it very difficult to pay this tax. The Bill, which I read last weekend, does not take into account the exceptional circumstances in which people find themselves. We are in a very dire economic situation in terms of revenue generation but the introduction of this property tax at this time will make a dire situation disastrous.

Some people in this country are very badly off and some families are very badly off. We all know that from our neighbours, friends and the communities we live in but the deferral sections of the Bill are aimed at dealing with that problem. For single people on an income below €15,000 and for a couple with an income below €25,000, there will be a deferral. Those who are badly off because they are paying huge mortgages can add €20,000 interest on to the top of that income for a couple and still get deferrals. There is quite a good deferral system. If one has to pay €300 a year and one defers that for ten years, that is only €3,000 on the value of the house plus 4% interest, which would probably bring it up to some hundreds of euro beyond that. The deferral system is not a big penalty on the value of the house and it is there for persons who have an inability to pay. However, a lot of people have an ability to pay and we should not take the hard case as the typical case.

The Senator will recall a few weeks ago there was a change in the television signal and a good deal of data came across my desk when that was being done. Does he know that 82% of households in Ireland have pay television packages? Most of them do not have the basic package, they also have sports and film channels. If one considers the cost of that-----

That is more an indictment of RTE.

No, if one considers the cost, the full package in many instances is close to €1,000. The basic package is a few hundred euro and the television licence for the 85% who pay it-----

I have it and it is only this size in the middle of my screen and the rest of it is black. I have four stations which is plenty.

The Senator is an exception.

I take that as a compliment as it was no doubt intended to be.

The Senator should pay for Sky Arts; it has two great channels.

I would not touch anything tainted by the ghastly claws of Rupert Murdoch.

Can we stick to the amendment, please?

The point I am making is that a very strong case can be made about how badly off the country is but that is not true. There are people who are very badly off and there are more people badly off now than ever before, but there is a whole generality of people who are paying their way. I am only using what people pay for a television product in their homes as an example and this measure is an awful lot less. Many people will pay less in property tax than they will pay for a television licence. The charges are quite modest and they will be spread across 1.9 million household units and that allows us to keep the rates down. Some 90% of houses in this country, according to the Revenue Commissioners, are valued at €300,000 or less. There are real issues but we should not exaggerate the position by speaking in generalities.

I understand the point the Minister is making and I can go some of the road with him on it, but he has not addressed the serious issue of people who are in great difficulty with mortgages. It was a feature of the Celtic tiger that many people bought or built very large properties and they will attract fairly significant property tax as a consequence. Some 29% of mortgage holders are in arrears or have had to make some arrangement with their lenders. I take the point the Minister made about people having different alternatives in terms of television packages and other items that involve discretionary spending, but it must be accepted that a very significant proportion of the population are in great difficulty and are struggling exceptionally hard to make ends meet. It is the cumulative effect of measures that create difficulties for people. No one single measure tips people over but when added together at some point the effect of them will put people into serious difficulties.

The Minister spoke about exemptions. There is an exemption limit on incomes but would it not be appropriate to factor in people's disposable income rather than gross income. Many people will have far less than €15,000 a year once they have paid their mortgages and dealt with the commitments they have. That is something that needs to be examined. I can understand why the Minister provided for an exemption, although whether the threshold is high enough is questionable, but I have some difficulty with the concept of people who are unable to pay tax accumulating a liability for the future. That is wrong.

Another point I wish to raise with the Minister is why we are ramming through this measure. It will come into effect well into next year. There are sections of the Bill, particularly Revenue powers, that need to be properly and fully debated in this House and a guillotine will probably be applied to the debate in a few hours. That is unacceptable. It is a disservice to the Bill, to what the Minister is trying to do and, more particularly, to the people we represent. I do not see any good reason this debate cannot resume next January when we return after the recess. That would at least allow us to tease out the provisions of the Bill, as we are doing now in a reasonable fashion. I ask the Minister to consider that issue. I cannot see a good reason for ramming this Bill through now.

The Bill is very close to the Senator's position on disposable income, leaving aside mortgage payments. If one takes a couple who have an income of €25,000 before they come to having earned the that amount, they can deduct up to €20,000 of interest payments from their income. The concept the Senator is taking about is already provided for in the Bill.

On the question of rushing to bring in the legislation, the Revenue Commissioners are being charged with responsibility for the collection of this tax.

The Revenue Commissioners informed me that if we waited to do this in the finance Bill it would be too late in the year to allow them to make detailed preparations for collecting the tax. They sought certainty about the actual terms of the tax and that certainty is only provided on enactment. This is why we separated it from the finance Bill and introduced it as separate legislation to be done before Christmas.

If good ideas arise today, I am perfectly prepared to consider them and then amend this legislation in the finance Bill. For example, I have already made a commitment to introducing an amendment for pyrite houses. I will introduce an amendment on the obligations on the executors of wills. I do not have a solution yet but there must be a better way of doing this than what is described in the Bill. I discussed an issue with another Senator this morning at the start of the debate. She is particularly interested in exemptions for weekend residences for girl guides and for when they go away to scout dens and so on. We will consider that as well. If other issues arise I will not close the door on reasonable amendments, but I will have to do it in the context of the finance Bill. Then it would apply retrospectively to this legislation.

The Minister is coming across as very reasonable. There is a dialogue going on and that is very valuable. There are people at a critical stage, which we all recognise. The Minister has indicated the sensitivities in this area also. There are people who have a certain amount of money. Then there are people who have a great deal of money, apparently. I gather the Prada handbags in Brown Thomas are floating out the door and the agents have taken over neighbouring stands previously occupied by Cartier. However, for the people in the middle and the people who are concerned, worried and upset there is a genuine psychological fear. There is a palpable fear in the country and people feel it. They maybe on some form of dry land now, but they feel they are getting quite close to a cliff and they can feel an abyss opening up. We have all felt this type of sensation at some time. The Government will have to get the reasonable attitude the Minister has been displaying during the debate out into the public mind to reassure them. Clearly, he has attempted to protect people who cannot pay.

I am unsure about all the methods and I do not like post-mortem taxes. I thought at least if one died one could get away from tax. The real problem is a psychological problem of terror. This is a real fear. It may not be a justifiable or justified fear but people are afraid. People are afraid they will not have the capital if something happens to the roof. They must pay €300 in this case but it is a cumulative effect because there are so many demands. All of us are encountering different demands all the time because of different cuts, nicks, bites and so on. It is a psychological condition for people who may have the money and who might in most circumstances be prepared to pay but there is a feeling of terror. The reasonable attitude of the Minister might help to address that issue.

The Minister has already answered the question of Senator Norris about what the rush was. He has explained the work that must be done with Revenue in preparation.

I realise the Minister does not schedule the business here, but, unfortunately, there will be a guillotine at 5.30 p.m. There are several well thought out amendments on each section which we will not get to at this stage. We have tried to consider the issues as individual Senators, particularly those of us who oppose the imposition of a property tax at this time. Having said that and knowing the reality that the Bill will come through, we are considering some suggestions. I am grateful for and I am pleased to hear the Minister's openness to accepting suggestions. On Second Stage yesterday I commended the Minister on the basis of his willingness to move forward with an exemption for those affected by pyrite. I have tabled an amendment to section 11, amendment No. 25. However, I can see no way that we will get to it at this stage. Work is ongoing in this area but how will that exemption be framed? Is there a mechanism for I and others who are involved in the pyrite groups? My area in north Dublin is particularly badly hit. Is there a way for me to submit to the Department suggestions on how any exemptions should apply? It will be difficult. I will finish on this point and I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence. Many people cannot afford to get the pyrite test. A pyrite test costs in the region of €2,000. The material must be sent to England for a proper test to be carried out. We know there is pyrite in certain estates but will the Department of Finance seek independent, verifiable test results that a given house in a given estate in north Dublin has been affected? Will the Department then take the view that consequentially the entire estate is affected, or will it deal on the basis of the pyrite report of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, and take the view that the report should determine the group of estates affected? In the interim, how can we make submissions on this matter in advance of the finance Bill? My concern generally with the finance Bill is that there are time constraints. There were 88 amendments tabled for this Bill and it was put through the Dáil in three hours. The same applies in the Seanad. I would appreciate even a quick clarification on that point because I do not believe we will get to section 11 at this stage.

I take the point. The Minister has made a credible argument in favour of why the Bill should be done before the finance Bill. I also welcome his receptiveness to any good ideas that might emerge. However, the problem is that we are on section 2 and there are 157 sections in the Bill. If we get another two sections done, it is probably as much as we can do. This means the Bill will not get the scrutiny that it is entitled to get and that the people want us to give it. The Leader will be guided by the Minister. We have held good debates in the House on several issues and this is not a Bill that should be rammed through. There is no reason why we cannot either come back one week earlier or deal with it in the first week of our return in January. Were the Minister to indicate to Revenue that he does not intend to accept any amendments but that he may make some changes in the finance Bill, then we could have the Bill done and dusted by the end of January. I appeal for that to be done. We owe it to the public.

My question relates to paragraph (c) of the amendment. The Minister mentioned that he may be willing to make an exception. He stated adaptations to the houses of people who have disabilities or who live with people with disabilities would likely be in the same bands and that any adaptations would not push such houses into a higher band because of the works. If works moved the value of the house up one band would the Minister be willing to accept amendments or make an amendment in the finance Bill to exempt such houses from the valuation?

My question relates to the pyrite issue. If it costs €2,000 to test each house it would almost be worth the Government's time to set up a special laboratory because it is so expensive. Is there no joint facility? We have received varying numbers in respect of how many houses in Dublin are affected and how many in the west and so on. The costs for testing seem outlandish. One could prospect for gold with that type of money. I commend the Minister for bringing forward the facility to ensure pyrite houses are included in the exemptions. Well done to the Minister.

It was in this House that Senator Darragh O'Brien introduced the pyrite Bill and during one of the debates on pyrite the suggestion was made about an exemption. Perhaps it was from there that the Minister took it up. I would like to think so because it would suggest a positive relationship in terms of making good suggestions in the Seanad.

I will be advised principally by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on the basis of how the exemptions will be done. The pyrite issue is primarily an issue for that Department which has responsibility for housing. Any Senator should e-mail any suggestions to my private secretary and we will take them into account. We have not yet resolved how to do it effectively. If a Senator has experience of it in his neighbourhood, he or she should give us the suggestions.

Is that just on the pyrite issue or would it be possible for Senators to send in the substance of the amendments we may not reach today?

Splendid. I thank the Minister.

The Senator can see the files stacked in front of me. My staff who are very good and competent have gone through all of the amendments and supplied a speaking note on each one. We will use all of the material that they have prepared, even if we do not arrive at the amendment today. We will go through it before we decide on the limited number of amendments that will be introduced in the finance Bill.

I ask the Minister to answer my point directly. Obviously, he and his officials have put a lot of work into the legislation. As he said, notes have been prepared on all 157 sections. Senators on this side of the House take their job seriously and have also carried out a lot of work on the Bill, but it has been proposed that we guillotine the debate almost at the start.

We are debating amendment No. 5 and I have already given some latitude.

Will the Minister allow the debate to continue into the first or second week of January or until we resume next year?

I must deal with the Bill in front of me. We are debating amendment No. 5.

Is the Minister prepared to do what I suggest?

I am sorry, but I have explained why I must deal with the Bill before the Christmas recess.

Amendment No. 6 not moved.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 18.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 7 is out of order.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I accept the Cathaoirleach's ruling on amendment No. 7, but it may be helpful to point out to the Minister that the Cathaoirleach's reason for ruling it out of order was because he feared it would put a charge on the Exchequer. However, the object of the amendment was to provide revenue for the Exchequer on the basis of the difference in valuations between zoned and unzoned land. In preparing the finance Bill perhaps the Minister will reflect on the question of how the appreciation of property values of a house surrounded by rezoned land compares to a house on lands that have not been zoned. Might this be a means of capturing a source of revenue? That was the purpose of my amendment, although it was probably bungled in the way I phrased it.

I will consider the matter in the context of the finance Bill.

Question put and declared carried.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 11, before section 3, but in Part 1, to insert the following new section:

“3. - (1) This Act shall not in any way prejudice the integrity of the family home.

(2) The ability for the liable person to pay the property tax liability should be taken into account such that the Revenue Commissioners put in place multiple approaches to payment, including deferral schemes.

(3) The tax liability for the liable person shall not result in the forced sale or other form of dispossession of the family home.”.

Most of the issues raised in this amendment have been discussed. The amendment is intended to protect the family home in order that people are not compelled to move to different neighbourhoods, thereby losing connection with their schools, friends, churches and GAA clubs. Forced transfers might have a significant impact on families' well-being and welfare. It would protect the family home in the event that individuals lose their jobs - unemployment increased from 4% to 14.8% at its peak - or if they face a loss of income in the event of a recession, illness or going out on a pension. People would not be required to move or sell the family home in order to pay the tax.

Section 3 defines the relevant categories of residential property. It was announced in the budget that when the property tax comes into effect in July 2013 it will replace the household charge. However, I cannot find a reference to the non-principal private residence charge. Perhaps the Minister will address that issue in the finance Bill. Why would he hit people on the double by not removing the non-principal private residence charge until 2014? I am not referring to institutional investors or landlords with 200 or 300 properties but to the tens of thousands of people who bought modest apartments as an investment in their pensions. I will leave the discussion of buy-to-let mortgages to a different day. When the property tax is introduced in July 2014 why will the owner of a rented property be made to pay the property tax in addition to the €200 non-principal private residence charge?

On Second Stage I raised the plight of people in the private rented sector. A significant number of people in Ireland face serious arrears and negative equity on buy-to-let mortgages. There are comprehensive statistics on this issue which show that the vast majority of landlords own one or two properties. Many of them were advised by their banking institutions to purchase their properties and were incentivised to do so by successive Governments. It was suggested there would not be sufficient provision for pensions for people in this country when they reach old age and that individuals should be putting something by.

Many of the people who purchased properties during the Celtic tiger years are now experiencing difficulties.

Yesterday I mentioned the significant potential undermining effects for this sector and the overall housing market. I am at a bit of a loss as to why a full NPPR charge for the year would be levied on what is for many people a very distressed area of the market.

Property tax on the family home is a new departure for us in Ireland. I am conscious that the amendment Senator Barrett has put forward-----

The Senator should stick to the amendment.

I am speaking to the amendment. Does the Minister envisage any situation where the family home could be repossessed in the event of non-payment of property tax? Surely deferral schemes are there to prevent that happening. Will the Minister clarify whether he envisages the home being repossessed in situations where the property tax has not been paid for some time? Will that happen, given the family home is one's shelter and part of one's dignity?

The family home will be protected. The intention is that the amount of local property tax that will apply will be quite small in relation to the value of the house. In the event of somebody losing his or her job and the family income reducing, the deferral system will kick in and that person can apply for a deferral within the guidelines for deferral. I do not see any circumstances in which anyone would be forced to sell up and move because of the imposition of this charge. As I mentioned, according to the Revenue Commissioners, some 90% of homes in the country are now valued at €300,000 or less.

On the issue of the principal private residence, we could do as suggested if it was not administratively difficult. What we should have done was to apply the flat rate property tax and the second home tax for the first six months of the year and then introduce the property tax for the second six months of the year. What we have done is we have abolished the flat rate charge of €100 for the first six months of the year, and the property tax which replaces it only kicks in for the second half of the year. Therefore, some people with houses of less value will pay less next year than they paid under the flat rate system.

Due to administrative and Revenue reasons, we decided not to discontinue the second home charge until 2014; therefore, those with second homes will pay the full amount on them for this year. We felt it was a reasonable approach to let that run for another year rather than for those people to pay the local property tax for six months of the year. The argument could be made that that is an anomaly, but that is how we decided to do it, for both administrative reasons and reasons of Revenue flow. The second home tax brings in approximately €70 million. Our option was whether we should keep that tax for another 12 months or whether we should cut something else. That is the same kind of argument the Seanad had on the Social Welfare Bill about a cut of €26 million. By keeping this tax for another year, we bring in €70 million. One can see how tight things would be if we had to find that amount elsewhere in the budget. I agree there is an anomaly, but it is not a very significant one.

In terms of legislation for this, there are provisions in the legal system to collect the second home charge. Therefore, when we discontinue that charge, we can pick up on it in the finance Bill for 2014 or on some other suitable occasion and remove it from the system. The intention is that the flat rate charge will be discontinued from 1 January, the new local property tax will commence on 1 July and the second home charge will continue for 2013 but will be discontinued from 1 January 2014.

Is Senator Barrett pressing the amendment?

No. I warmly welcome the Minister's reassurance regarding the family home.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 3 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 18 and 27 are related and will be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, before section 4, to insert the following new section:

"4.— A residential property shall not, for the purposes of this Act be regarded as a relevant property where the property is under the ownership of a Local Authority for the purpose of the provision of social housing.".

These amendments seek to exclude local authority and voluntary housing from this tax. The expert group commissioned by the Minister's colleague, Deputy Phil Hogan, argued that this category of housing should not be liable for property tax. Why is the Minister going against that argument and applying the property tax to local authority housing? This will have one of two consequences. It will either result in the local authority having to pick up the tab, thus reducing spending on local services, or the local council will end up passing it on to tenants. In the first scenario the local community will lose out and in the second, people who do not own their own homes - council tenants - will end up paying the tax. This makes no sense. Either the Government should tax people because they own homes or it should not.

Given the precarious state of local government funding, it is highly unlikely councils will be able to cover the significant cost of this tax, especially large urban councils with a large number of council tenants on their books. People who do not own the properties in which they live will end up having to pay. There is some kind of skewed logic involved. No other country in the EU or OECD area has such a property tax charge, where people who do not own the property in which they live are, effectively, made pay for it.

This argument extends also to housing associations, the not-for-profit bodies that provide social housing for people in our communities with the greatest level of need. Whether this tax is paid by the housing association or the tenants, it will cause significant hardship for these people. Many of these people are homeless or have mental health issues. If the Minister imposes this tax on housing associations, these groups will reduce their spending in other areas, including support services and housing maintenance. If the tax is applied to the tenants of the housing associations, this will cause financial hardship, increase emotional distress and affect their general overall well-being. I see no credible argument for the inclusion of these two categories in the Bill and I urge the Minister to support or take these amendments on board.

I agree with what Senator Reilly has said. Amendments Nos. 18 and 27 are in my name and they make similar proposals to what has been outlined by Senator Reilly. I mentioned on Second Stage that the Minister has gone against the recommendation of the Thornhill group report in this regard.

On Second Stage, I provided specific figures with regard to Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council. Based on the number of social housing units they have, a full year cost for Fingal Council based on an average payment of approximately €325 would be approximately €1.6 million and more than €3.5 million for Dublin City Council. This money must be provided for in the budget passed just this week. This property tax is being sold as something that will fund local government, which is fine. However, the issue is that we have a situation where two local Dublin authorities - three if we include Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown - will either have to increase rents for social housing tenants or reduce services. This is contrary to what the Government has argued this Bill is about. It says the Bill is about broadening the tax base and funding local services. I will not labour this point further as I made the same point yesterday.

There is an issue with regard to the voluntary housing sector such as organisations like the Iveagh Trust, Clúid and the North and East Housing Association. The Thornhill group report recommended that these associations be exempt from the tax. The Minister mentioned on Second Stage that he would look into this area and that his officials were talking to the housing associations. I welcome that. Does the Minister envisage addressing this further in the finance Bill? Can we take it that there is a commitment or at least a desire on the part of the Government and the Department to deal with the voluntary housing sector?

Clearly, the Minister is not going to deal with the issue of the charge on local authority housing, which the Thornhill group report stated was effectively a circular tax.

From what has been said already, it appears that 65% of the money raised will go back to local authorities. The remaining 35% will be retained in the central Government pot. If Fingal County Council pays €1 million, it will get back €650,000 while the Government retains €350,000. I would like to hear the Minister's views on that issue.

I have raised the following matter twice on the Order of Business, as well as yesterday on Second Stage. There is confusion in this measure as to whether the tax is a property tax or a local services tax. It is drafted as though it is a tax on the owner of a property rather than the occupier. If it were a true local services provision, it would be levied on occupiers. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Darragh O'Brien and I am interested to hear the Minister's response on how it is intended to deal with this, as it is a significant issue. One can talk about moving money from one section of a local authority to another and call it a paper transaction, but that does not reflect reality. In reality, the income will have to be generated. I sit on the strategic policy committee on housing of Dublin City Council and I am aware of significant rent arrears within the local authority area. There are similar problems in other local authorities across the State. It is difficult for me to see how a local authority will generate this income.

That is one side of the coin. The other side, which will be even more problematic, involves the voluntary housing associations. In many instances, voluntary housing associations are already levying service charges on tenants, while local authorities do not. There are historical reasons for that relating to the Housing Act 1966 and the definition of "deferential rents". There is no ability within the voluntary housing sector to levy greater charges on tenants. Clúid has between 5,500 and 6,000 units and it is impossible to see how the sums in question can be raised. I ask the Minister to give the matter very serious consideration. Government policy relies on the voluntary housing sector to provide increased housing stock for the poorest, most vulnerable people. I would hate to see a measure introduced which had the unintended consequence of completely undermining the voluntary housing association sector.

The decision to apply the tax to all owners of property, including local authorities, is contrary to the Thornhill group's advice. We have done so in the interests of fairness between householders. Those Members who are practising and practical politicians know the situation in private and public housing estates. In publicly provided estates, when families move to the second generation many buy out the lease. Tenant purchase has turned tenancies into owner-occupier situations. It is a great scheme, which I support fully, and it runs to between 80% and 85% on the estates I know best. I did not want to differentiate between those who have bought out their houses and those next door who are still renting. Some people would be paying, while others were not. It is an underlying principle of the Bill that everybody makes some contribution, no matter how small. Those Members who are practising and practical politicians know there is even greater aggravation in private housing estates on which local authorities have acquired houses which they provide for social housing tenants. I approve of that policy. For too long, we differentiated between people on the basis of where they lived. To integrate housing is sound social policy, but I do not want to aggravate those situations which are already difficult by providing that those who bought houses on an estate pay a property tax while a handful of local authority tenants do not. It is the owner who pays, not the occupier, which means the local authority is liable. If that leads to a circular payment, it is worth doing in the interest of social harmony. If a local authority wishes to recover the charge, it is for that body to do so. The rate will be €1 or €2 per week and it will be for the local authority to raise its rents by that amount. I am conscious that adjustment of rents is a reserved function of the elected members of local authorities, not the manager. I am also conscious of the fact that in the real world, local councils will play political games with such decisions. It is for that reason that the onus will be on a local authority to write a cheque to Revenue on the basis of the quantum of houses it owns. It will be up to the members to decide. Some very wealthy local authorities which receive significant sums from the new tax may decide not to pass on the charge to tenants. Others may have to do so. It will be a matter for local discretion. The many Members who know their communities will know exactly what I am talking about.

I would like to treat those voluntary housing associations which are analogous to local authorities - providing houses for people who could be housed by the latter and pay rent in the same way - in the same way I have outlined in respect of local authorities. However, the voluntary housing sector provides other categories of accommodation also. Across rural Ireland, there are schemes provided by communities with grants from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, including homes for the elderly. Members will know those clusters of nine to 15 houses with a community centre at their heart. I wish to exempt those schemes. Therefore, I wish to distinguish on the basis of tenancy and use between the housing provided by voluntary agencies. On Second Stage in the Dáil, I discussed refining that approach. I have an idea of the general outline of the approach to take, but I need to think about it between now and the finance Bill. I must ensure that what I propose is as focused as I intend.

I want to make a brief contribution. Recently, I received a briefing on this issue from groups representing the voluntary housing associations. The Minister said his reasoning was that he wished to ensure an equitable regime. There are voluntary housing projects and there is accommodation for people with special needs. I doubt anyone would resent this. In fact, I took the trouble to welcome it.

They will be exempt.

Yes, but the representation that was made to me suggested that this would cause some disquiet where the housing type was the same. I do not know if that is the case, but it is welcome that the Minister has indicated he will look at these matters again. I will pass on the submission I received in case he has not already been given it. It may well be that he has. Voluntary housing associations contribute 14,000 houses to the national supply, which is significant. Regrettably, 100,000 people are awaiting housing, which is why the associations should be encouraged as much as possible, particularly as they are voluntary. We should not penalise constructive social efforts. Therefore, I will pass this information to the Minister and his officials to permit him to take it into account, in case he has not already had access to it. I appeal to people to make submissions as early as possible to allow us to deal with them efficiently.

I am a director of the North West Simon Community in Donegal and we have approximately 40 housing units. I agree completely with the Minister on the need for everyone to contribute something.

It may not be palatable to say a voluntary housing group must pay. I take it properties in County Donegal will probably be at the low end of the €90,000 to €100,000 range. It is fair that everyone should pay something and if the figure will be only €90 in County Donegal, it will not be an inordinate amount of money. The Simon Community, Respond! and other groups are always fund-raising and also receive good Government grants. Even though on the surface this seems to be hammering social housing organisations, at the same time the voluntary housing element of local authorities is very important and has been working very well. I hope voluntary housing associations will see extra services being provided in their areas to justify the charge of €90 or however much it will be. I share the sentiments of the Minister.

The Minister has stated the onus is on the local authority to write a cheque to the Revenue Commissioners. Is not likely that the local authority will use the proceeds from the property tax it will take in from others to pay this bill? Will this not just amount to a paper exercise, or does this matter? I like the point that houses for older people in voluntary housing associations will be exempt. The Minister has stated he needs to think this out a little further, but presumably he will base it on age. Will it be above the age of 66 years?

I was speaking about a specific homes for the elderly scheme.

Those on low incomes.

Will all those involved in the homes for the elderly scheme be exempt or only those above a certain age? It is very good that the Minister will exempt housing for those with special needs and there will be much support for this.

Voluntary housing associations provide housing for a variety of people and it is clear that where they specifically provide houses for disabled people or those with intellectual disabilities, these will be exempt. It is also clear that if they provide houses in the same way as a local authority and draw from the same pool of tenants, it is totally analogous to housing provided by local authorities. However, there are now several hundred voluntary housing organisations, which means there is an area in between these two examples about which I am not clear at this stage and I want to assess it between now and the time the finance Bill is introduced to see what should be in and what should be out.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 31.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, before section 4, to insert the following new section:

"4.--A residential property shall not, for the purposes of this Act be regarded as a relevant property where the property is under the ownership of an approved housing body within the meaning of section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992.".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 32.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

As it is now 5.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Seanad of this day: "That each of the sections undisposed of is hereby agreed to and the Schedule and Title are hereby agreed to in Committee, that the Bill is reported to the House without amendment and that the Bill is hereby received for final consideration and passed."

Question put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I ask that the division be taken again by other than electronic means. As it is Christmas, we should have a walk-through vote.

Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 33; Níl, 16.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Brian Ó Domhnaill.
Question declared carried.