Taxes targeting large gardens zoned for housing but left idle will go live next month

Owners of the country’s largest homes could have to register their gardens for a new property tax under rules coming into effect next month.

The new Residential Zoned Land Tax (RZLT) will apply to land and property that is zoned for residential development and provided with essential infrastructure but remains unused.

Homeowners with gardens or yards larger than an acre could fall into the zones designated for taxation. They don’t have to pay the tax as long as the land is truly part of their home and used as a garden, but they are required by law to register for it.

Local authorities have produced maps of all inhabited areas within their borders, due to be released on November 1st.

“There’s a really important deadline coming up,” said Paul Hogan, chief planner at Minister Darragh O’Brien’s Housing Department.

Once the maps are released, the countdown to paying the tax will begin, he said. The first payments are due in February 2024 and must be paid by May of this year and every year thereafter if the land remains undeveloped.

The new tax will replace the existing vacant land levy, and although the rate is lower at 3 per cent of market value compared to 7 per cent under the existing levy, it will cover a much broader range of land and allow for fewer exemptions.

The idea is to identify as much zoned and usable land as possible to discourage land hoarding, encourage housing and encourage more compact development.

Landowners have two months, beginning November 1, to submit or opt out of the cards.

Exceptions apply to land that is designated as residential but is needed for other purposes such as schools, healthcare facilities or community land.

A complaints system will also be set up, which will first be processed by the local authorities and then forwarded to An Bord Pleanála for a decision if no agreement is reached.

Mr Hogan said the intention was to refine the November 1 maps as soon as possible to meet the February 2024 payment deadline.

“We want to be ready by this time next year so people are clear about what their responsibilities are,” he said.

The February 2024 date applies to properties that have been zoned and farmed as of January 2022.

Any land identified thereafter will become taxable for the first time after three years and then each year thereafter if left vacant.

It is a self assessed tax but valuations can be challenged if they do not match other local property values.

The RZLT comes as the government works on a major reform of planning laws.

Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien said the aim was to bring more clarity and certainty and less conflict to planning matters.

He said he was concerned that too many planning decisions would be “made in court”.

District development plans will be 10 years instead of 6 to allow for longer-term planning, and more planning decisions will be made at the local level.

Decision times are to be tightened and penalties will be imposed for failure to meet deadlines.

Mr O’Brien said local authorities would be given the resources to handle additional and more complex cases.

He also said long-awaited new housing density guidelines, which will restrict one-off rural housing, would be released shortly.

Bills that would cover all planning issues would soon be published, and he hoped to put them before the Oireachtas for discussion before Christmas.

“We need an efficient and effective planning system fit for a modern Ireland,” he said. “We don’t have a fit for purpose modern system.”

The changes will come in tandem with reforms planned for scandal-ridden An Bord Pleanála. Taxes targeting large gardens zoned for housing but left idle will go live next month

Fry Electronics Team

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