Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Ceisteanna (607)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

607. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will initiate a wide-ranging review of the current commercial rates regime and engage with stakeholders including an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32984/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Commercial rates are the single biggest source of income for local authorities. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, it was estimated that local authorities would collect €1.66 billion in rates in 2020 from approximately 150,000 commercial and industrial properties liable for payment, amounting to 29% of their overall projected revenue for 2020.

The Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019 was passed by the Oireachtas and enacted on 11 July 2019. Key Elements of the Act include:

A modernisation of rates legislation and practice, including variation of rates payment arrangements;

The pro-rata levying of rates on occupiers based on period in occupation within a year;

The application of interest payments on unpaid rates;

Minimum charges for vacant commercial premises;

Potential Rates Waiver Scheme; and

Amendment to Rate Limitation Order formula in place in the year following revaluation.

These new provisions will add to the suite of options already available to local authorities to support local businesses and ratepayers. Commencement of the various sections of the Act is under active consideration, and it had been intended that the bulk of the provisions would be operational for the 2021 local authority budget cycle, in November 2020. However, commencement has been delayed due to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic.

In recognising the difficulties faced by businesses, the Programme for Government – “Our Shared Future”, in the area of “Reigniting and Renewing the Economy,” committed to set out how commercial rates will be treated for the remainder of 2020. One of my earliest priorities as Minister was to secure funding to provide a waiver of commercial rates for businesses impacted by the pandemic, while simultaneously supporting local authorities.

€600m was allocated by Government to fund the cost of a six-month waiver of rates from 27 March to 27 September, which took the form of a credit in lieu of rates. To strengthen this support, in Budget 2021, the Government announced an extension of the waiver until 27 December 2020, at an additional cost of €300m. The criteria for the extended waiver remains the same and it is intended that the waiver for the final quarter will be automatically applied to rate accounts that benefitted from the six-month waiver. This brings to €900m the financial support to fund the cost of a waiver of commercial rates, which is an unprecedented measure that offers support to businesses and certainty to local authorities.

In addition, the Programme for Government, on the subject of Local Government committed to examine ways to further streamline the commercial rates system post COVID-19. Consideration will be given to the area of commercial rates when there is greater certainty regarding the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue will be reviewed in the context of the importance of commercial rates to the local government sector and the impact of commercial rates on business, whilst bearing in mind the recently enacted legislation and continuing impact on businesses and the reopening of society.