Independent TD Mattie McGrath has described as regressive and punitive the proposal contained in the Local Government Bill 2013 which aims to apply a 50% rates burden on all vacant properties in the State rather than just in urban areas like those controlled by Dublin, Limerick and Cork city councils as is currently the case.
Deputy McGrath was speaking after receiving numerous representations from concerned business and property owners who feel the measure, if implemented will significantly stall local economic recovery in many towns and villages:
“This is nothing short of a blatant and short sighted revenue generating measure which seems to have little or no regard for the long term impact it will have on maintaining businesses into the future. I have been consistently raising the inequities that appear to be embedded into the Rates and Valuation processes in this country for some time and so it is deeply frustrating to see that this proposal further solidifies that unfairness.
“I will be calling on the Commissioner of Valuation to investigate this proposal and monitor its implications given that it is his explicit role to bring more equity, fairness and transparency into the local authority rating system for non-domestic property. It is an absolutely absurd position to be in where the rates being charged on some properties now exceed the rent; this means that an already unsustainable position will now become a disastrous one in terms of trying to support business owners to maintain vacant properties in the hope of achieving occupancy at some future point.”
Deputy McGrath went on to point out that it was clearly more just to simply maintain the system where when the owner of an unoccupied business could prove that the business was unoccupied for two years then no rate charge should apply; this would in the interests of all concerned and more conducive to generate growth:
“I really fail to see how anyone could be tempted to acquire the use of unoccupied business space if that very occupation brought with it very onerous rates penalties or indeed how any struggling property owner could survive for long when being forced to pay rates on an empty building.
“It is a clear example of how Government business policy is being dictated by those with little or no practical business experience. I am calling on the Government to accept a verifiable self-assessment process on the part of business owners whose properties have been left vacant because of the inability to draw in new occupants to the premises.
“The question needs to be asked; what earthly good will it achieve to hit struggling property owners with a massive new rate charge when they have already endured two years or more of generating no revenue,” concluded Deputy McGrath.