The government’s new Residential Zoned Land Tax (RZLT) is already a “financial burden” for many farmers because they are having to pay for professional advice on how it could impact their farm and families, a Co. Kilkenny campaigner has warned.
Alex Wilsdon, whose family has farmed their land since 1890, is rallying farmers across the country to stand up against what he believes is the government’s plan for “constructive seizures of land through taxation”.
The RZLT is a new tax that will come into force from next February on land that is zoned for residential use and has access to services such as water supply, roads and lighting.
It is being introduced as part of the government’s Housing for All plan to 2030.
The tax – which will be calculated at 3% of the market value of land “in scope” – will operate on a self-assessment basis and according to Revenue, farmers and landowners will be able to register for the tax later this year.
According to Revenue if the tax is not paid interest will be increased as a charge on the land within scope.
However Wilsdon has warned that in its current form, the RZLT is a “universal, one size fits all tax” that does not take into account specific housing need per county or housing demand or housing viability.
“Many of the lands targeted by RZLT are in areas with no financial viability to build new housing because the selling price would not cover the build cost and there is no demand from builders.
“The Department of Housing is saying to farmers you have land – we want it, get off it,” he added.
Wilsdon wants farmers to come together and take a stand against the universal introduction of the tax and has formed a new organization – RZLT Ireland – to campaign against it and is urging farmers to get in contact via (email protected) directly with him.
Although he has already got the backing of many farmers from across the country he said it is vital every farmer has their voice heard when it comes to the RZLT.
The Co. Kilkenny farmer said: “We’re crossing a line here with this tax, this is a country where everybody fought for land ownership and the rights to the land and then 100 years later somebody has decided to re-write that.
“At the end of the day the constitution states there is the right to property and if the state wants people’s land they could do a lot to encourage them to sell it, but forcing them to sell it is a different matter altogether.”
He has also warned that the “ideology behind this legislation” should be of deep concern to every politician who believes in the constitutional right of people to own property – however large or small.
Wilsdon said there is deep concern among farmers about the entire process around the tax and that a growing number of farmers, including himself, have had to take legal advice on where they stand.
Last year Local Authorities published draft RZLT maps outlining which particular lands would be subject to the new tax, the final map of land will be published on December 1, 2023.
According to figures provided to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage by local authorities, 1,687 submissions including 210 requests to amend zoning were made to local authorities up to January 1, 2023.
One of those submissions was from Wilsdon.
“We submitted to have our land unzoned because we have a block of 10ac which is an old farmyard and is no longer used as a farmyard and 3 of the 10ac are affected so we got the balance of the land out.
“But if a farmer has what could be seen as pure residential land there is very little they can do to get it out and that is very worrying as farmers see this as a threat, particularly older farmers.
“People have told me they can’t make investments on the farm because it could be completely wasted – they’re living in the shadow of this tax,” he said.
In the meantime Wilsdon warned that “there’s already a cost” because of the RZLT to farmers.
“A lot of people have had to pay out a lot of money as part of the process to engage with the whole legislation and that’s an unnecessary burden on people.
“The state has created a thing that’s putting a lot of families under tension because you might have succession issues where people see themselves as wanting to continue on operating the farm and the family say well no it looks like we’ll have to sell it.
“That also has implications people who may have built homes on the family farm – this tax is a real imposition and it’s an intrusion into what we have all taken for granted – that land and your home is your castle,” Wilsdon added.