HOMEOWNERS face paying an €80-a-month property tax under a plan drawn up by the country's top economic think-tank.
The charge would be based on the value of homes, and middle-income earners would end up providing most of the tax generated, the study by the Economic and Social Research Institute says.
Homeowners who bought their house and paid stamp duty in recent years would be given a waiver, as they would be regarded as having already paid a property tax. Those on low incomes and people getting social welfare benefits would be exempted from the payment.
Even with these exemptions, a property tax could still bring in close to €1bn a year, as the Government draws up plans for a €15bn package of cuts and taxes over the next four years.
There are 1.7 million households in the country, but the exemption scheme would mean up to 235,000 householders would not have to pay the tax, the ESRI says. But the study, which sets out how a property tax would work, warns that exempting those with little or no income from the payment could stop those on welfare ever taking up a job.
A property tax is currently being considered by the Government, as it strives to meet its €6bn target of cuts and taxes for next year's Budget.
Sources have indicated that it is almost certain to figure prominently in the four-year budgetary plan to cut the deficit, which is set to be unveiled in the next few weeks.
The tax would cost €80 a month for the average household based on a property value of €240,000.
The majority of the tax would be paid in Dublin, as incomes and property values are higher on the east coast. Some 55pc of the tax would be raised in the greater Dublin area. The study found 44pc of disposable income is generated in Dublin.
The ESRI said such a tax could be introduced quickly based on updating existing data on house values, a task that could be carried out by a private firm of valuers.
In two academic papers examining how a property tax might work, the state-funded think tank said the tax would work best if it was based on the valuation of homes.
Dr Tim Callan of the ESRI admitted the study showed that middle-income earners would end up providing most of the tax generated.
The average amount of the tax would be €950 a year, and it would only be imposed on owner occupiers. Middle-income earners would up having to shell out between €832 and €1,040 a year.
Asked about middle Ireland being hit by an unfair tax burden, Dr Callan commented: "There is no painless way of getting extra income in."
A property tax is the sort of revenue-raising measure that would have the least impact on the labour market, he said.
The ESRI suggested that a simple property tax, with no reliefs or income exemption limits, at a rate of 0.4pc of a property's value could raise revenue of about €1.1bn per year.
It said there is potentially an important role for property tax in Ireland, but there was a need to shield those who could not pay it. But it added that even if reliefs were built into the system for the low paid and those on social welfare, the tax could still generate close to €1bn.
The paper looks at completely exempting those who earn less than €12,000 a year, or alternatively those who earn less than €15,000 a year, from the property payments.
The study advocates having tapered reliefs from the tax for those earning a little over these amounts. It admits this would discourage people from giving up welfare payments.
According to the paper, the introduction of a property tax could be made more equitable if stamp duty payments were treated as a pre-payment of property tax and homeowners were given a waiver from property tax until this pre-payment had been fully used up.
Treating stamp duty as a pre-payment of tax would mean a family that paid €15,500 when they bought in 2007 would not make a property tax payment for up to 15 years.
Report by Charlie Weston - Irish Independent