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The Irish property tax problem - everyone wants to own some and no one wants to be taxed on it

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Ireland's controversial property tax has the nation in a frenzy
Ireland's controversial property tax has the nation in a frenzy
Every country has its quirks. God knows America has the odd one or two. Well, Ireland is no different.

One Irish quirk seems to be property: it's an obsession. Maybe it's some national collective memory dating back to the evictions and the famine, etc. Maybe it's just that most people are only two generations removed from subsistence farming. I don't know.

Whatever the cause, the Irish are obsessed with property.

It was this obsession that fueled the property buying frenzy that broke first the banks, then the nation and has left hundreds of thousands of Irish families over-borrowed, under-waged and facing years of negative equity on their homes. 

It's not just that Irish people want to own their own home. I can understand that. 

It's that so many Irish people want to invest in property. This is why banks which would would cast a cold eye on lending money for a venture in information technology or new food products were falling over themselves to lend money to property developers. This is why people who would never consider investing in the stock market invested what they had - or often what they borrowed - to buy property with a view to renting it out. 

They gobbled up “buy to let” properties all over Ireland, in Britain, in Spain, in Florida, even in Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania – just about anywhere. If someone was selling a time-share in Timbuktu there was an Irishman there with his checkbook. Like I said, it's a national quirk.

So now, possibly in a bid to correct this quirk, our economic and financial overlords, also known as the Troika, also known as the ECB, EU and IMF, declared that we must have a property tax. And, thus, we now have a residential property tax.

I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but in my 20+ years of living in Ireland there has never been a tax on people's homes. Needless to say, people are not pleased with this new tax. They're already struggling to pay the old taxes so as you can imagine people aren't best pleased at this further invasion of their wallets. There are even some organized protests against the property tax.

This is where Ireland's relationship with property gets even quirkier. Those groups organizing protests against Ireland's new property tax include … labor unions. There's even a teachers' union opposed to the property tax.  I never thought I'd see the day when a teachers' union would oppose a hike in property tax. 

Then there's my favorite. The Socialist Party is opposed to the property tax. Let me say that again, but read it slower: The Socialist Party is opposed to the property tax. That is, they're  against it, not happy with it, would rather see it go away. The Socialist Party. 

I've been shaking my head in disbelief at this information ever since the leaflet came through the door the other night. I mean, a property tax is basically a tax on wealth and the Socialist Party is opposed to it. They love taxes and government spending so, …, are they just happier to have the taxes come from earnings rather than wealth? 

Ireland's socialists have to be the only socialists on the planet opposed to the property tax. Amuses me no end. I only wish I'd have come up with this description of the phenomenon: “Tea Party socialists.” That sums it up perfectly.

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