The new property valuation pages on Revenue’s website have come in for criticism for being confusing and vague and for taking no account of the actual size of individual houses and apartments.
Revenue’s response is that the site was designed to provide only guidance to property owners and that it never implied that strict valuations on individual properties would be provided.
But questions were raised yesterday as to whether the tax authority might have gone further to refine the website to give clearer and more detailed information to taxpayers.
This is particularly so given that the tax liabilities will be based on self-assessed valuations. Leaving aside the political campaign to boycott the tax, concern has been expressed that conservative valuations set out on the site will leave taxpayers in some doubt as to what they should pay.
Revenue cites the Economic and Social Research Institute when saying it is possible to provide a reasonably accurate estimation for the valuation of Irish property by defining only a small set of characteristics.
The information it used is based on data gleaned from the stamp duty paid on more than 34,000 property transactions in the past three years and advice from professional valuers and the National Asset Management Agency.
Revenue also says it is open to owners using information on values from the new property price register or from local estate agents and newspapers or property websites.
Still, experts say the generalised nature of the guidance on the website as regards location, property type and age leaves too much scope for confusion and ambiguity. For example, the site does not take account of the number of bedrooms in homes.
"It seems in terms of accuracy that it's very much brushstrokes," says Keith Lowe, chief executive of estate agents Douglas Newman Good.
“I would have thought that it should have been defined a lot further. It wouldn’t be very difficult to highlight the areas that wouldn’t be the average,” he says in reference to the valuation estimates.
Lowe points to apparent undervaluations in parts of south and north Dublin. Taxpayers might well see Revenue estimates on property at ¤350,000 in a scenario in which similar homes are known to be changing hands at ¤700,000 or ¤800,000.
“It’s going to be very confusing for users and owners of property,” he says. “It’s brushstrokes and, unfortunately, brushstrokes do not fit all in this area.”
Whereas the Revenue site attaches estimates between ¤300,000 and ¤350,000 on semi-detached homes in Dún Laoghaire, he says a period home in that area could be worth some €700,000 in the current market. Furthermore, he knows of a period villa in Dún Laoghaire which recently fetched close to ¤1 million.
In much the same way, Lowe notes that the site estimates the value of semi-detached homes in Clontarf at between ¤400,000 and ¤450,000. This is well below the asking price on a property he is selling in that area. “I’ve a house quoting just under ¤1 million,” he says.
Similar concerns were expressed in relation to valuation estimates on properties outside Dublin.
Auctioneer Ed Carey in Enfield, Co Meath, says the site appeared to provide reasonable estimates for semi-detached homes in the town. However, he finds fault with the estimates on stand-alone houses outside the town. These had a maximum estimated value on the website of €200,000 but real values are in excess of that amount.
“I think it’s very, very general and I think it really needs to be treated with caution,” says Carey.
Gerard O'Toole, a chartered surveyor with Mayo firm Touhy O'Toole, acknowledges limitations on the website but says Revenue's priority at this time is to ensure compliance for 1.8 million households: "Whether it is a useful tool to find the value of your property, I'm not sure it is."
This reflects the fact Revenue is using a relatively limited amount of information.
O’Toole says the objective for property owners should be to register themselves and pay whatever they think is fair and reasonable. Some of the worry surrounding website estimates is overdone, he says.