Why the Government Spin on Property Tax ?
In yesterday’s Irish Independent article it is revealed that registration for the government’s Local Property Tax is currently between 25 and 30% . This is despite the passing of the deadline for returning the LPT declaration form.
It is still quite difficult to get an accurate handle on the real percentage because no two statements can agree on exactly how many households there are in Ireland. Figures range from 1.6 to 1.8 million. Whatever the true figure, it is still a dreadful return and a strong message from the people to the government. Indeed one year on, a third of the population have still not registered for the original €100 Household charge.
The government naturally prefer the lower figure to make the percentage registered figure look higher. Of course there is a good reason for this, and it is the same reason we saw the debate in the media last year disputing the numbers who registered for Household charge. Then the government engaged in a mass media offensive to convince the public that over 50% of the home owners had registered by the deadline, and we are seeing the start of that campaign again.
You see the government continually cites its ‘mandate’ to make these decisions, based on the general election vote (though the fact that FG run the entire country based on 25% of the electorate voting for them is another discussion). However, if more than 50% of the country simply does not register for the government”s new tax, that mandate reasoning evaporates. The government would then be forced to resign, although the history of politicians in Ireland resigning is not an honourable one.
So we can see the thinking behind the wall to wall media coverage. After last year’s problems the government are pulling out all the big guns this time. The Revenue have been called in and have had their ‘information’ campaign all over the media for many weeks now. In reality the Revenue’s message has been one of threat and really nothing else. They refer to people who don’t register as ‘offenders’ and use heavily loaded words to instill fear in normal honest people, and a sense of being unceasingly hunted as criminals. Indeed the article quotes the government on this theme by saying “Government sources say the rise in household charge payments is down to the fear of Revenue being on their trail”
There are still 3 weeks remaining for people to register for the tax online of course and we predict that in that time the media spin machine and the numbers game will hot up again. Undoubtedly the government will claim over 50% compliance (at the lower level figures) before the 28th May deadline. We will of course be seeking our own independent figures as, under the circumstances, it would be foolish to trust a government who has everything to lose to report the figures correctly.
DDI’s stance on this issue is clear. We are well aware that the government has slashed hundreds of millions from local government budgets over the last 2 years, and have diverted that money to paying unsecured bondholders against the wishes of the people. This new tax is simply filling that hole. For that reason we do not agree with this tax and propose that the two issues must be solved together as they are simple cause and effect, and both have been imposed without any recourse to the will of the people.
There is more than one way to stop an unlawful tax of course. The tax can be, and is being challenged in the courts over the last few months by the first man to be brought to court for not making a declaration This test case was reported in the Sunday Mirror on 5th May 2013. The established parties naturally all refute that this is even possible, and we can understand why they would say that. The oddity though is that the minority parties that get themselves directly involved in the campaign protests against the tax seem to be actively coming out against the legal route too. A route which could offer a definitive and binding legal determination on the government. Why these parties choose to ignore the courts is a question only they can answer especially as it is common knowledge that they ‘had’ a very large legal fund collected by tax protestors over the last year. If one were a skeptic one might wonder if they are just another form of controlled opposition to try to limit the effectiveness of the campaign.
In addendum, today at the Public Accounts Committee it has also been revealed that the rate of property tax can be increased by 15% at the start of 2015. This is despite the government having previously said the tax could not be increased for 3 years. The revenue also disagree with the government’s original line and say that it was always in the legislation that it could be increased within the first 3 years. Indeed in 2016 the councils will be able to increase it year on year at their own discretion.
We all remember how Enda Kenny’s government sold the Household Charge with spin like ‘It’s only €2 a week’ or ‘it’s less than a pint a week’. Well now in 2013 that has risen to an average of €8 per week. In 2015 that will be €9 per week, and in 2016 it is going to be over €10 per week and forever rising to the levels we see in the UK where bills of over €60 per week (€3,000 p.a. equivalent average home) are common. Have no doubt this is the goal. Like the boy with the finger in the dyke, if you take out the stopper and let that water trickle through pretty soon the dyke is gone and you will be flooded.