Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Household Tax: Why it is wrong and how it can be beaten.

Good evening and thanks for coming. My name is Conor O’Riordan and I’m representing the Limerick Branch of the Campaign against Household and Property Taxes. The campaign was successfully launched a few weeks ago and we have already held several meetings in areas such as Dooradoyle, Glasgow Park and Corbally. Tonight I’ll explain to you why this is an unfair tax and why with you, the ordinary person of Ireland’s backing we can win this campaign.

This Government, like the Fianna Fáil/Greens one that came before it are determined to make us pay for the financial crisis. People’s living standards have been attacked and social services have been savaged to help service the debts of corrupt and gambling bankers and developers here and abroad. From January, the Government will attempt to impose a new Household Tax on us and will begin installing water meters in homes across the state. Rural households will face an additional sceptic tank charge. While the tax starts at €100 annually, this will rise. It is estimated that by 2014, it will be transformed into a full blown property tax which will cost households €1300. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of John Fitzgerald of the ESRI who in July appeared on the Matt Cooper show. He said he thought €100 was “relatively low” and that it would rise. When Matt Cooper asked him would it be €700-€800, he replied “yeah”. He then said “Water charges would probably be another €500”. So you see, this household tax is merely a precursor for a more brutal and more unjust property tax. 

This €100 tax is testing the waters. This is why we need to stop it now. In defence of the tax, Minister for the environment Phil Hogan claimed “Sure it’s only €100 per year, just €2 a week, everyone can afford that”. But we know this €100 tax is a temporary measure in an attempt to sucker us in. Even then, though €100 a year might seem like pittance to Phil Hogan, he does after all make €169,000 a year plus expenses, it is a further burden on many families already under severe pressure.  A report published by the Irish League of Credit Unions shows that 250,000 people or 7% of the population have no money left after paying their monthly household bills and a further 750,000 people have only €70 left each month after paying their household bills. Furthermore, the charge is a completely unfair tax.  It is a “flat tax” which asks the ordinary couple in the modest home to pay the exact same amount as the millionaire or the billionaire in his mansion.

 This household tax is merely another example of the government’s crippling austerity drive made to make us pay for the banks’ mistakes. €85bn has been paid to bail out the bankers while there has been no bailout for the working man and woman of this country who are being hammered.

So the question is, how can we beat this tax? The solution – non payment. In the mid 90’s in Dublin, The Water Tax Federation organised a non-payment campaign which defeated the water tax. So you see everyone, this tax can be beaten. There are 1.6m households who will be levied under this tax. If even 30% or 40% of these households refused to pay it would strike a hammer blow against the Government. If more refused to pay it would cause the collapse of the tax entirely. This is important as all of the cuts and taxes made hitherto have been out of our control. We can protest against VAT increases or increases in our college registration fees all we like but we can’t simply refuse to pay them. Here is where we have the upper hand. This is the first time where we can actively protest against a tax by simply not paying it. 

The Government have been quick to make their threats regarding non-payments with rumours circulating that fines may be imposed, we may lose our electricity if we refuse to pay, the €100 charge may be docked from our social welfare payments or possibly even imprisonment.  But these are hollow threats. To impose such measures the Government would be forced to take us through the legal system and this is where our campaign comes in. If anyone is ever taken through the legal system, we have a legal team who will fight their case. In the 1990s during the Water Tax campaign, if anyone was taken to court hundreds of fellow non-payers turned up to support them. That campaign’s legal team challenged every case in the courts clogging up the court system and making it impossible to proceed. We can do the same now.

Thank you for your time and patience. I hope what I have told you this evening has struck a chord with you. Remember with your help and the help of ordinary people around this great country, this tax can and will be beaten – Ní  neart go cur le céile. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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