Irish citizens boycott new homeowners tax

Christopher Werth Feb 8, 2012

David Brancaccio: There’s a piece in the Wall Street Journal today suggesting Europe’s central bank is getting more flexible when it comes to helping Greece with its government debt nightmare. Still no agreement today among senior Greek politicians about more painful budget cutting that would pave the way for a European bailout package to avert default.

Now on to another suffering European country, Ireland — where the government has put in a new property tax. This is going down badly with Irish people already up to their ears in austerity. Christopher Werth reports.

Christopher Werth: Packed town hall-style meetings like this have sprung up all across Ireland over the past several weeks.

Clare Daly: There is a crisis in this country. But it’s not a crisis of our creation. And we will not continue to keep footing the bill for it.

That’s Clare Daly, an Irish Socialist Party politician and a member of the opposition in Ireland’s parliament. This month, the government slapped a controversial annual tax of $130 on nearly every house in Ireland. It may not sound like much, but Daly is leading a national campaign urging homeowners not to pay it.

Daly: The best chance of defeating this tax is if we boycott it from the beginning.

Mora Condren, the proud owner of a four-bedroom bungalow, just might join the boycott, even though not paying would come with steep fines.

Mora Condren: I have always been a law-abiding citizen. But what they’re talking about now is only the tip of the iceberg.

That is, as part of its bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Ireland has to phase in a more comprehensive property tax by 2014. As a result, that small annual charge is likely to become a lot bigger.

Condren: I suppose I’m fighting in anticipation of the property tax being a fairly large hunk out of my annual income.

The new charge seems like more of a blow because since the 1970s, Ireland hasn’t had a property tax at all.

Tim Callan: The idea of a property tax is, for most people, a new experience.

Tim Callan is with Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute. He says Ireland relied instead on hefty fees that were levied each time a house was bought and sold, which happened a lot during Ireland’s housing boom.

Callan: When that stopped, you were left with a big hole in tax revenues.

It’s a hole Ireland is still struggling to fill.

In Dublin, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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