Over €11Million in Commercial Rates Written Off in 2017 by Cork County Council as “Unrecoverable“

By Seamus Whelehan

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Over €11million was written off Cork County Council’s commercial rates bill last year, with a further €15million outstanding.
Additionally, almost 200 businesses in Cork County were subjected to legal action for non-payment of rates in 2017.
Cork County Council last year obtained 110 Court Judgements against businesses who failed to pay commercial rates, with a further 66 cases settled after the issuing of summons.
Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey said the Court Judgments represent .0007% of the Authority’s entire rates base.
He said “there could be a perception out there that Authorities go to the Courts for judgments, but that is not the case with the low percentage that we have and the relationship we have with the rate payers”
Last year 6,335 ratepayers availed of a Rates Relief Scheme whereby a grant was given to all complainant ratepayers once certain criteria were met.
The Scheme cost the Local Authority €400,000 and was primarily focused on assisting Small and Medium Enterprises.
Head of Finance, Lorraine Lynch said the unrecoverable figure of €11.17 million was primarily made up of €9.2 million which related to vacant properties that once had a business attached.
Ms Lynch said that in order to balance the Council’s books they have to levy the bill and subsequently strike it off.
The balance of €2.3 million, she said, dates back to recessionary times where businesses have changed hands and the Local Authority were finding it difficult to pursue the debtor.
The news comes as the Council admit it is losing out on millions of Euro in revenue annually due to a rates assessment backlog.
It has been revealed that a significant number of premises throughout the County are currently not paying rates, many of which are premises that have either been newly built or had their buildings altered.
Council CEO Tim Lucey said it represented a “significant” loss to the Council, a situation that is anticipated will remain for a further three years.
Commercial rates of €120.8 million accounted for 41% of the Authority’s total revenue income last year, making it the most important source of the Council’s own funding.
Under current rules the National Valuations Office in Dublin must first assess a property before a Local Authority can start charging new rates.
Mr Lucey said while the situation is not ideal the Authority could not charge commercial rates until the Central Evaluations Office review the businesses.
The agency is currently carrying out a national review of all commercial premises, a process which hasn’t taken place here since the mid-19th century.
It’s envisaged that once the process is complete, businesses will be reviewed every five to ten years to ensure rates are current.
Mr Lucey said that, once the review had taken place, the Authority could not chase a business for back pay.

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