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'Tea Party socialists?' Why the left is leading a tax revolt in Ireland.

As the deadline passed midnight Sunday for payment of a new government fee, only 49 percent of households had signed up to pay amid frustration with the government's austerity agenda. 

By Correspondent / April 1, 2012



Dublin, Ireland

A majority of Irish households have refused to pay a new government fee in a tax revolt led, unusually, by socialists. 

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The Irish government levied the new tax in an attempt to shore up the country's finances that were devastated by economic collapse and a series of bank bailouts. But as the deadline passed midnight Sunday, only 49 percent of households had signed up to pay.

With no rioting and few protests, Ireland had been until now the quietest of the ravaged economies on the fringes of the European Union. However, the tax revolt reveals significant frustration here to budgetary reforms and foreshadows trouble ahead for the government's efforts to meet EU bailout demands.

Ruth Coppinger, spokesperson for the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes and Socialist Party councilwoman for Dublin, says the refusal to pay the property tax — and forthcoming water metering — is a rejection of austerity policies ushered in by the government at the behest of the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund.

"The mood in society has changed. The general feeling is that we didn't create this mess and we're being asked to pay for it," she says.

Flat fee first, then property tax

All Irish households are being charged a flat fee of €100 ($133) with the promise that the "household charge" will be replaced by a tax based on property value in 2013.

Minister for the environment Phil Hogan thanked those who had registered to pay the tax, saying: “I know that Irish people have had a difficult time time of it over the last few years and, in spite of that 800,000 have registered and paid the charge. They understand the need to pay for local services and, by paying the household charge, they have made their valuable contribution to the continuation of essential services at the local level."

Estimates on how many dwellings are liable to pay vary, with the government saying 1.6 million and opponents of the levy saying the census reveals 1.8 million. But with at least half of the households in the country refusing to pay the government is coming under intense pressure.

The opposition is being led by left-wing parties in parliament, including the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, and Sinn Féin.

Ireland has no ongoing property tax

Unlike other European countries, Ireland has had no ongoing property tax since "residential rates" were abolished in 1977. A stamp duty tax is paid on buying a property, while a flat annual charge of €200 ($266) is levied on second homes.

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