At the time of writing, more than 530,000 Irish citizens are intent on breaking the law. In an unprecedented act of defiance, a sizeable amount of Irish homeowners are planning on refraining from paying the newly-introduced Household Charge of €100. The results of a Paddy Power RedC poll conducted earlier this week indicate that 39 per cent of those eligible for the tax will not pay it.
The 61 per cent of those polled who intend to pay the charge – or have already done so – is primarily made up of older people, while almost half of those aged between 18 and 54 surveyed say they will refuse to pay.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, coalition supporters are the most likely to pay the charge; 77 per cent of Fine Gael voters and 26 per cent of Labour advocates declared they will have paid up by Saturday’s deadline. In stark contrast, 72 per cent of Sinn Féin supporters are adamant they will not pay, as are 43 per cent of Fianna Fáil voters and 44 per cent of Independent supporters. The latter takes in backers of the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance – both political groups have been extremely vocal in their disapproval of the charge.
Of those questioned, 65 per cent said the tax was unfair, and 72 per cent said they would prefer a charge for use of services rather than a flat tax.
This latest survey will no doubt come as another blow to the under-fire government. Nevertheless, Taoiseach Enda Kenny remains optimistic that people will “measure up” and “obey the law”. He did concede, however, that: “The government can only function where it gets the cooperation and the support of the people.” Despite a late surge in those registering to pay the tax, the figure remains well shy of the 1.6 million homeowners who are liable. Even members of Kenny’s cabinet are dubious as to whether or not the majority of people will pay up before this weekend’s deadline. Transport Minister Leo Varadkar admitted it would probably take until the end of the year before those who have paid reached 80 to 90 per cent.
Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party is among those TDs who have urged house owners to boycott the tax in an act of mass revolt against austerity. He said: “This is the first time in the history of this State that such a massive movement of this kind has been crystallised in this way. It’s people power.” Thousands of demonstrators have attended nationwide protests against the charge, while others have called for an extension to the 31 March deadline – a suggestion Environment Minister Phil Hogan immediately shot down.
Active Retirement Ireland has said they have been inundated with calls from elderly people who are confused as to how to pay. The organisation’s CEO, Maureen Kavanagh, has criticised the government for sending out conflicting messages in relation to the charge. She said: “The problem has been around the information that was given out, particularly over the weekend, where Minister Hogan said that council officials may be calling door to door to collect the charge has led to fears of bogus callers.”
Problems with the Household Charge website have also been reported, with many people voicing their annoyance at having to make several attempts to pay the charge before it was processed correctly. Further frustration was evident when it came to light that those who live in estates with even a single property unfinished are exempt from the charge due to a loophole in the legislation. As the results of last year’s census released today show that there were 289,451 vacant dwellings in Ireland at that time, 14.5 per cent of all houses in the state, the figure of those who are ineligible to pay could be quite substantial.
On Monday Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes, said that if the government couldn’t raise the estimated €160 million from the household charge, they may have to look into raising personal taxation. Figures obtained today from the Department of the Environment show that fewer than one third of homes in Ireland have paid the charge. People who do not pay the tax will face financial penalties which will increase monthly.