Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil that it is “reasonable” for farmers to say “this is my farm. I own this land….and I don’t want to develop it” in relation to the government’s new residential zoned land tax (RZLT).
The RZLT is a new annual tax that will come into force from February next year and is part of the government’s Housing for All Plan.
The tax will be calculated at 3% of the market value of land “in scope”, which includes land zoned for residential development and land that could be connected to services.
There have been a total of 1,687 submissions from landowners challenging the inclusion of their land in draft RZLT maps which have been published by all 31 local authorities.
According to Michael Healy-Rae, the Independent TD for Kerry, farm families have “not caused or influenced the housing crisis” and should be exempt from the new tax.
Deputy Healy-Rae told the Dáil: “It does not make sense to go after a family unit that is farming land. Such land may be on the edge of a town or a village and it might be deemed to be suitable for housing.
“However, those people did not develop that land during the boom when they may have been offered large sums of money to do so.”
He said that farm families “are not developers or speculators and they cannot be accused of hoarding land”.
Deputy Healy-Rae also warned the government that if it does not move to “deal” with the RZLT issue it will be “detrimental to family farm operations”.
He highlighted the example of a family who own land on the edge of Killorglin town, Co. Kerry, in the Dáil.
“It would be very profitable if they were to sell it and cash in their chips,” the deputy said.
“They do not want to do that. They are farming the land. All they want is to be left alone. If this tax were to be imposed on them, it would cost them €30,000/year.
“They do not make €30,000 from their farming operation. They are just getting by; they are getting on with life and making a living,” the Independent TD for Kerry said.
He appealed to the the Taoiseach to “look again” at the RZLT and ensure it did not “put these farmers out of existence”.
According to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, there is “provision in the legislation for landowners to request that their land be dezoned in order that they can continue to milk cows, grow barley or use the land for whatever purpose they choose”.
He told the Dáil: “It is reasonable for farmers to say, ‘this is my farm. I own this land. It has been in my family for generations and I don’t want to develop it. I want to continue to farm it’.
“So far, 210 landowners have made submissions seeking the dezoning of their land in order that they can continue to do what they have done for generations. That option is open to them”.
The Taoiseach said that these farmers had indicated “that they do not want their land developed and do not want housing estates on it”.
According to Deputy Healy-Rae some farmers may have missed the deadline to object the inclusion of their land in the RZLT maps.
The Taoiseach said while he was unsure if anything could be done in relation to this he would discuss the matter with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien.