The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has warned that the government’s new Residential Zoned Land Tax (RZLT) will force families to sell land that has been in their family for generations. The RZLT, set to come into force from next February, is deemed “unjust” and needs to be addressed by the government. Supplementary RZLT maps have been published this week by a number of local authorities. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has advised landowners to carefully check these maps to see if the maps apply to them. The government has claimed that the aim of the tax “is to activate land for residential development throughout the country, rather than to raise revenue”.
However, the ICMSA said that while it understands there is a housing crisis, the RZLT, as it currently stands, is a “direct attack on individual farm families”. The tax will be calculated at 3% of the market value of land “in scope” and will operate on a self-assessment basis. According to Revenue, farmers and landowners will be able to register for the tax from late-2023. Shane O’Loughlin, business committee chair of the ICMSA, said the reality now facing some farmers is that they could potentially have to pay €450 per acre from next year “even though their land will not be used for residential purposes”.
“ICMSA is calling for a change to government policy whereby if Revenue and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine confirm land is being actively farmed by its owner of 10 years standing, that the land would be excluded from this tax. Through the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS), DAFM have a record of farmers who say they are actively farming,” O’Loughlin added. He believes that if the land, which has been zoned, was claimed in relation to BISS then it should be exempt from the RZLT. “This makes a valid system that is straight forward to administrate,” O’Loughlin added.
The ICMSA is not alone in its criticism of the RZLT. The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) said it was “disappointed” by the government’s decision to introduce the tax. The IFA said that it would have preferred to see the government incentivise the use of land for residential development rather than penalise landowners. The IFA’s president, Tim Cullinan, said that the tax would “disproportionately affect farmers and landowners in rural areas, where there is little or no demand for residential development”.
The IFA has also called on the government to use the tax revenue generated to fund the development of rural infrastructure, including roads, broadband and public transport. Cullinan said that this would help to “stimulate economic activity in rural areas and make them more attractive places to live and work”.
The government, however, has defended the tax as a necessary measure to address the country’s housing crisis. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, said that the tax would encourage landowners to sell or develop their land for residential purposes, which would help to increase the supply of housing in the country. O’Brien said that the tax would also help to prevent the hoarding of land by developers and speculators.
The government has also said that exemptions will be available for land that is actively farmed or used for other purposes, such as forestry or amenity. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said that it will work with Revenue to ensure that farmers who are actively farming their land are not unfairly impacted by the tax.
Despite these assurances, farmers and landowners remain concerned about the impact of the tax on their livelihoods. The ICMSA has called on the government to reconsider the tax and to work with farmers and landowners to find a more equitable solution to the housing crisis. The IFA has also urged the government to review the tax and to ensure that it does not unfairly penalise rural communities.
In conclusion, the RZLT has been met with criticism from farm organisations, who warn that the tax will force families to sell land that has been in their family for generations. The ICMSA has called for a change to government policy, whereby land actively farmed by its owner of 10 years standing would be excluded from the tax. The IFA has called on the government to use the tax revenue generated to fund the development of rural infrastructure. The government, however, has defended the tax as a necessary measure to address the country’s housing crisis and has said that exemptions will be available for land that is actively farmed or used for other purposes. Despite these assurances, farmers and landowners remain concerned about the impact of the tax on their livelihoods and are calling on the government to reconsider the tax and to work with them to find a more equitable solution to the housing crisis.