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Column: Why the household charge is a ‘gateway tax’

Socialist TD Clare Daly is suggesting that it might be time to revive the Irish-coined concept of boycott instead of complying with the €100 household levy.

Clare Daly

CONTRARY TO THE Government statement’s that the new Household Tax is about “only €100”, in reality it is a gateway tax to a new tier of local taxation that will see households levied over €1,000 per year in property and water taxes by 2014.

Householders already struggling under the burden of massive mortgages and in many cases, negative equity and huge structural problems, cannot afford to shoulder another tax on their homes. There are huge issues at stake.

In recent days the Government has unleashed an extensive advertising campaign claiming that monies collected will go to fund local services. This is not true. In fact local authority budgets have been cut by an amount in excess the amount that would be collected if everyone paid the household tax, and residents are already aware that Council services have been badly hit as the public sector recruitment embargo means that vacancies are not filled, and now staff will have to be handed over to the collection of this new tax. In fact we are being asked to pay more for less.

Meanwhile, the taxes we have paid are being used to fund payments to unsecured senior bondholders with yet another €1.25 billion to be handed over on 25 January. For many people the point is being reached where enough really is enough. After three years and eight austerity budgets, with wages being reduced, pension levies, universal social charge, increased VAT and other charges, many people feel that the Household Tax is their opportunity to make a stand against all of the austerity and the economic madness of more money being taken out of our pockets, which will only serve to deflate the economy further.

This issue affects all residents, with exemptions in relation to payment restricted to local authority tenants, those in receipt of mortgage interest supplement and a number of unfinished estates. However everybody is expected to register, with these people having to declare that they are eligible for a waiver. In essence the government wants us to do the work in compiling a new national database to be used as the scaffolding for a new tier of taxation.

This tax can be made uncollectable

If large numbers of residents refuse to register, threats of fines will be made unworkable. No sanction applies before the 31 March deadline. Contrary to the impression being given of mass fines being issued after that date, the government has to first identify who owns the property, bring them before the District Court, secure an order against them, the maximum amount of which is €2,500, and if the person continues to refuse to pay, bring them back to court to order, and hope to secure an attachment order seeking payment from their wages or social welfare.

With the court service already overloaded, and not a single banker or politician ending up in jail, or fined, it would be a huge political issue should they choose to pack the courts with PAYE taxpayers and pensioners engaged in a principled stand against an unfair tax. It would take hundreds of years to bring everyone to court. This tax can be made uncollectable if a campaign can be built that gives people the confidence to not register and not pay.

With hundreds of people attending meetings from Clonmel, to Gorey, from Ballybofey, all across Dublin, and everywhere in between, this issue may be the one that changes the view of the Irish from one of passive compliance with any amount of austerity thrown our way, to a reawakening of the traditions of a nation that coined the term “boycott” in the first place.

Clare Daly is a Socialist Party TD for Dublin North.

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