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Hayes says 'no difficulty paying household charge' as over 363k register

The Minister of State admitted the government needed to “learn lessons” from the handling of the controversial €100 tax.

Brian Hayes
Brian Hayes
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THERE IS NO difficulty paying the household charge if you want to pay it, junior finance minister Brian Hayes has insisted despite contradictory statements from senior ministers over the weekend.

After Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said that arrangements were being made for the €100 flat tax to be paid at the Post Office, Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s department said that this was not the case.

The confusion has led to criticism of the government and Hogan over the handling of the controversial tax which is the subject of a countrywide boycott and with just over a fifth of those who are required to pay it having done so ahead of the 31 March deadline.

The latest figures from the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) show that 363,478 households have registered to pay the charge. This includes 35,277 properties which have registered since Friday afternoon.

Hayes said he did not think there was any difficulty in paying the household charge and accused some people of “pretending” there was.

“If you want to pay it, there’s no difficulty in paying it. That’s the blunt truth of it,” he told TheJournal.ie earlier today.

“You know people pretending that it’s difficult to actually pay this… there might be some examples of older people in particular in rural areas, but if you want to pay it, in the great majority of cases you can pay it.”

Call for deadline extension

Hayes said that he was confident there would be “significant up-take” between now and the 31 March deadline this Saturday. The households which have registered so far represents a total amount received of €36.3m. The government expects to raise €160m from the interim measure.

He also admitted that the government would need to “learn lessons” from the household charge issue ahead of the expected implementation of a more permanent property tax which a review group is currently examining.

“Any time you introduce a new tax it’s always difficult. People don’t want to part with their money and I fully understand that,” Hayes said, adding: “We need to learn lessons from this in terms of the implementation of a property tax.”

The environment spokesperson for Fianna Fáil Niall Collins has repeated his party’s call for the deadline to be extended, criticising the “chaos” of the government’s collection policy.

“The government now faces the very real prospect of the majority of households not paying on time, and the cabinet have become increasingly shrill and incoherent,” Collins said.

“Ministers are still creating total confusion over payment methods and many people have found the entire process inconvenient and confusing.

“Despite the failure to implement the policy in a fair, rational and articulate way, the government has refused to budge on their unrealistic deadline.”

Hayes would not be drawn on any talk that the deadline could be extended and said he would encourage people to pay before Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT), has said that it plans another protest following last weekend’s event at the National Stadium.

The protest group said it would rally at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the Convention Centre in Dublin this Saturday.

Read: Ministers add to Household Charge confusion

In pictures: Household charge protesters rally in campaign against payment

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Hugh O'Connell

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