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Revenue: We assumed that people would be somewhat familiar with the concepts

The chairperson of the Revenue Commissioners is appearing before TDs and Senators on the Oireachtas Finance Committee this afternoon.

Josephine Feehily today
Josephine Feehily today
Image: Screengrab

THE CHAIRPERSON OF the Revenue Commissioners has admitted that there was a “mistaken assumption” that people would be familiar with the property tax payment options for 2014 given they had paid a half-year of the tax earlier this year.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Finance Committee this afternoon, Josephine Feehily broadly defended the Revenue’s handling of administering the charge.

Her appearance came in the wake of controversy caused by letters many homeowners have been receiving letters in recent weeks asking them to state how they will pay the tax for next year by this month.

Feehily said today that Revenue “assumed that people would be somewhat familiar with the concepts” and the options available for paying the tax next year given they had been informed of these options when paying the 2013 liability earlier this year.

She said this had been “a mistaken assumption on our part”.

Feehily added that she is “intrigued as to why we didn’t have this issue in July” adding that “nobody seemed to get bothered” with a filing date of May and a payment deadline of July for 2013′s liability earlier this year.

She insisted that “no one has to pay LPT before 1 January… unless they choose to do so”.

Figures disclosed to the committee show that compliance rate for 2013 has been 91 per cent, which equates to returns for 1.6 million of t he 1.9 million properties on its register.

Feehily said that 205,000 returns have been filed in respect of 2014 and when combined with rollover from 2013 there is a total compliance rate for next year of 35 per cent with three weeks until the online filing deadline.

imageFianna Fáil members at the Oireachtas Finance Committee this afternoon

The committee heard that 36.5 per cent of people opted to pay by debit card last year with 15 per cent paying by credit card, meaning over 50 per cent chose to pay using one of these methods.

Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch said that given 50 per cent of people used cards it would be preferable if Revenue could organise a system whereby the card merchant could put a “hold” on the card to take the money at a future date, similar to how some hotel bookings operate.

Feehily told the committee that such a method is not in the terms of the contract that the government has with the merchant company.

“One way or another we don’t have that type of contract,” she said. “We operate within the government contract.

Later, although she said she would consider the possibility of changing this, Feehily expressed concerns that the Data Protection Commissioner may not be satisfied with people disclosing their credit card details to Revenue.

“Do you really think taxpayers would be happy giving us their credit card details and letting us dip in when we like?” she told TDs and Senators.

She later added: “Debit card or credit card, I have no authority to dip.”

Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath asked what the Revenue would be doing about those not among the 91 per cent who have complied with paying the charge so far.

Feehily told the committee that in terms of valuations there are “clear outliers” and said that with “other data sources” gaps will be identified where people have not complied.

“We can see gaps that we’ve had no compliance in and we will be following up,” she said, noting that no property can be sold without being compliant with the property tax.

Read: Your questions about the local property tax answered

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Hugh O'Connell

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