John Downing: ‘Three elections loom so LPT rises are firmly off the agenda’

Astonishingly, you’ll be invited to vote first – and face your property tax hikes later.

We know there are two imminent calls to the polls, with local council and European Parliament elections both slated for Friday, May 24, a bare seven weeks from now. These contests have a lot riding on them for the morale and future fortunes of many parties and Independents.

We are less likely also to see 2019 go by without a call to a general election. If we could see some kind of resolution to the tangled mess of Brexit at Westminster, we could know more about that one.

But there is another political reality at play – we are likely to see up to three TDs elected to the European Parliament on May 24.

And spoilsports have done away with the ability of the governing parties to postpone Dáil by-elections for anything beyond six months. The majority view at Leinster House is that we are far more likely to see a general election before we will see three by-elections later this year.

So, no surprise it’s going to be as you were for the Local Property Tax (LPT) – very probably until 2021 and beyond the election zone.

Expected changes to LPT rates have been hanging around like a dark shadow for many months. We have seen solo runs by prominent politicians, especially from the leafier suburbs of south Dublin.

Independent Transport Minister Shane Ross has urged a pensioners’ exemption to take account of retired people on low incomes living in houses with a high nominal value. His Cabinet and constituency rival – er, we mean colleague – Culture Minister Josepha Madigan caused a stir by advocating a special rate for Dublin in any new regime.

Since the LPT came to us in 2013, property valuations have soared in many places, with hikes of up to 80pc. The valuations were only supposed to hold until November this year.

Amid all the frenzy, the Government took the time-honoured route and commissioned an expert report. Ripples about this earlier in the week emanating from Government were that the experts advocated leaving well enough alone, perhaps for a year, with changes happening in 2021.

But no, the report actually says go for changes this autumn. However, the Government has opted to delay until late 2020 with changes happening in 2021.

The reality is that the LPT, currently generating a very precious half-a-billion euro per year for the Government, is here to stay. The history of taxes is that the only way is up for the rates meeting demands for more revenue.

The report cites a total of five options – and the Government has yet to pick one. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has indicated he would like to see only minimal increases.

The issue moves to a TDs’ budgetary oversight committee where cross-party agreement will be sought. With elections looming, you would get long odds on that.

Irish Independent

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