Ireland revolts against new household tax
(DUBLIN) - The Irish government was mulling Monday its response to a rare revolt against its austerity programme after it emerged that half the population had failed to pay a new tax on households.
Just over 800,000 of an estimated 1.6 million liable households registered by the weekend deadline to pay the 100-euro ($133) levy after a high-profile boycott campaign, which struck a chord with the population after years of belt-tightening.
The charge is an interim measure until a property tax is introduced next year, one of the requirements of an 85-billion-euro bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in November 2010.
"There is a need now to take stock at this point... and to try and encourage people, even at a late stage, to make the payment," Minister of State Roisin Shortall told RTE state radio.
People who fail to pay face a 10-euro penalty, which rises to 20 euros after six months and 30 euros after a year, and potentially a jail term.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan acknowledged the unpopularity of the tax, which emerged after the deadline for registrations passed at midnight Saturday.
But he argued the programme of tax rises and spending cuts introduced to help Ireland manage its multi-billion-euro debts following the financial crisis would get the economy moving again.
"I know that Irish people have had a difficult time of it over the last few years," he said Sunday.
"Nobody wants the imposition of new taxes or charges and I would have preferred not to have had to introduce this charge."
But he insisted: "We are on the road to economic recovery. This government has made the tough decisions that will get us there."
Ministers argue that Ireland was one of the last countries in Europe not to pay for essential local services through a locally-based tax.
Ruth Coppinger of the Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes (CAHWT) said the government should listen to the "clear will of the people".
Households boycotted the registration process "as part of a legitimate campaign against the tax and against austerity, which is failing to create any economic growth," she said.
Official data showed last month that the Irish economy sank back into recession in late 2011, despite registering its first annual growth for the first time since 2007.
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