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Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 28 September 2021

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Questions (298)

Gerald Nash

Question:

298. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Finance his views on the need for an urgent introduction of a vacant property tax to alleviate the ongoing accommodation crisis; his further views on whether the introduction of a significant vacant property tax has the potential to free up a significant number of empty properties particularly those purchased by large investor funds; the status of his most recent discussion with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46466/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have stated on a number of occasions that the primary objective of any vacant residential property tax would be to increase the supply of homes for rent or purchase to meet demand rather than increasing tax revenues. However, before introducing such a tax it is of course vital to have a sound understanding of the quantity, locations and characteristics of long term vacant properties, and the reasons why they are vacant. This is why the recently announced strategy, ‘Housing For All’ states that my Department will collect data on vacancy with a view to introducing a Vacant Property Tax.

The recently enacted Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Act 2021 enables Revenue to collect certain limited information on vacant properties in the LPT return form it will issue to property owners in advance of the new LPT valuation date of 1 November next. This information, together with information from other available sources will be used to assess the merits and impact of introducing a Vacant Property Tax.

While it is the clear intention of Government to introduce a Vacant Property Tax, the matter needs extensive consideration for such a measure to be effective and to determine the properties that should be targeted. Once this information has been collated, we will be in a better position to assess the merits and precise design of a Vacant Property Tax.

It is important to identify the reasons for vacancy and whether this is long or short-term in nature. There may be genuine and acceptable reasons for vacancy such as refurbishment work, the temporary absence of the owner for medical reasons or pending the grant of probate for a deceased person’s estate. Appropriate exemptions from any charge would have to be considered in addition to acceptable periods of vacancy.

As part of 'Housing for All' strategy, the Government has committed to a range of actions as part of the pathway to address vacancy and ensure the efficient use of housing stock. In the context of the development of ‘Housing For All’ my Department had intensive engagement with relevant Departments including the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I engaged similarly with ministerial colleagues including of course the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I expect engagement in relation to the specific issue of vacant residential property taxation will intensify once data on vacancy from LPT returns are available and analysed.

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