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Question

69. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to recategorise the equine industry for the purposes of commercial rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15794/17]

70. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the impact the increase in commercial rates will have on the equine industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15795/17]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 70 together.
The Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 provide for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property for rating purposes. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Acts and the making of valuations for rating is his sole responsibility. I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no role in decisions in this regard. Under Irish law there is a distinct separation of function between valuation of rateable property and setting and collection of commercial rates. The amount of rates payable in any calendar year is a product of the valuation set by the Commissioner, multiplied by the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) decided annually by the elected members of each local authority.
Having a modern valuation base is very important for the levying of commercial rates on a fair and equitable basis across all economic sectors. This has been the policy of successive governments and is the express purpose of the National Revaluation Programme now being rolled out by the Valuation Office. The Valuation Acts provide for revaluation of all rateable property within a rating authority area so as to reflect changes in value due to economic factors such as business turnover, differential movements in property values or other external factors and changes in the local business environment. The Valuation Office is currently engaged in a national revaluation programme, the immediate objective of which is to ensure that the first revaluation of all rating authority areas in over 150 years is conducted across the country, as soon as possible, and on a phased basis. This is a welcome and positive development which is long overdue and on which considerable progress has been made to date.
Revaluation is an important instrument in addressing historical anomalies in relation to commercial rates for both urban and rural properties and between particular classes of property within a local authority area. The general outcome of revaluations conducted to date by the Valuation Office has been that about 60% of ratepayers have had their liability for rates reduced following revaluation and about 40% had an increase, a pattern which is expected to be replicated elsewhere as the programme advances. The current phase of the national revaluation programme, "REVAL 2017", covers revaluation of all rateable properties in counties Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Kildare, Sligo, Carlow and Kilkenny where a revaluation is being undertaken for the first time since the nineteenth century. It also includes the second revaluation of South Dublin County Council area. Revaluation in these counties will be completed in September 2017 and become effective for rating purposes from 2018 onwards.
Where the Valuation Office proposes to enter a new valuation or amend an existing valuation on a Valuation List, there is an extensive process available to cater for ratepayers who may be dissatisfied with the proposed valuation. A dissatisfied person can make representations to the Valuation Office within 40 days of the date of issue of the proposed valuation certificate. The Valuation Office will consider any such representations and may or may not change the proposed valuation depending on the circumstances of each individual property. If any ratepayer is still dissatisfied with the final valuation to be placed on their property following consideration of the representations, they have a right to lodge a formal appeal with the Valuation Tribunal, which is an independent statutory body established for the purpose of hearing appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Valuation.
Specifically in relation to property used in the equine industry, I am advised by the Valuation Office that there has been some apparent confusion as to the rateability of certain elements of the industry. The Valuation Act 2001 (Schedule 3, Sections 1(a) and (b)) provides that all buildings and lands used or developed for any purpose, are rateable. The basic premise under the Act is that all interests (including buildings) and all developed land are rateable unless expressly exempted under Schedule 4. I should point out that there has been no re-classification of properties from rateable status to exempt status (or vice-versa) within the general equine industry since the Valuation Act 2001 came into force on 2 May 2002.
The only element of the equine industry which satisfies the exemption provisions in Schedule 4 is the breeding of horses. Buildings used for breeding of horses are classified as being of agricultural use and are "farm buildings" as defined in the Act. Therefore these buildings are exempted from the payment of rates under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4. On the other hand, buildings used for the training of racehorses, recreational equestrian purposes or livery premises are rateable under the Act because they are considered to be part of a commercial enterprise. Such buildings would typically include stables for horses, covered riding arenas, tack rooms and ancillary buildings used to support the enterprise. While acknowledging the important contribution which all elements of the equine industry make to the economy, there are no plans to reclassify these as exempt from rates. To do so would be at variance with the provisions in the Valuation Acts which maintains the long-standing position that all property occupied and used for commercial enterprises are liable for rates. Exceptions to this key principle would quickly be followed by demands for similar treatment from the providers of other equally important services and products, which would be difficult in equity to resist. This could thus substantially reduce local authority revenues, which would have to be made good by imposing corresponding increases on the remaining ratepayers.