knowledge | 7 October 2022 |

1 November 2022: First Steps towards Residential Zoned Land Tax

First steps towards implementation of the residential zoned land tax introduced by the Finance Act 2021 will commence on 1 November 2022, when local authorities will publish draft maps identifying lands to be taxed. In this briefing we focus on the early actions to be taken by property owners and developers.

How is ZLT different to the vacant site levy?

ZLT has the same aim as the vacant site levy, to encourage the early development of sites suitable for housing. When it takes effect in 2024, the current 7% vacant site levy will be replaced with a 3% ZLT charge. But how is a lower charge likely to act as a greater incentive to develop relevant sites? ZLT does this by applying to a much a wider category of land with much less scope for exemption.

Also, and unlike the vacant site levy, which was administered by each local authority, ZLT will be administered by the Revenue Commissioners in much the same way as local property tax. Personal responsibility is placed on liable persons to register with and to prepare and deliver annual returns to the Revenue Commissioners, along with a self-assessment of liability.

What immediate actions are recommended?

The publication of draft maps by each local authority on 1 November 2022 kick-starts a detailed process set out in the legislation towards identifying relevant sites to be taxed, which will culminate in final maps being published on 1 December 2023. ZLT will apply in 2024 to lands included in those final maps.

There is a lot of detail in the Act and, as part of the Budget 2023 announcements, the Government has signalled that amendments will be brought forward to streamline the operation and administration of ZLT. At this stage, it would be most important for owners and developers to:

  • become familiar with the criteria for designation of relevant sites, ideally in advance of 1 November, to understand the likelihood of designation of those sites;
  • on 1 November 2022, look up the relevant local authority websites to establish if the sites they own or are interested in have been included;
  • if the sites have been included in the local authority draft maps, become familiar with their rights to make submissions and appeals during the designation process - strict timeframes apply to submissions and appeals, so that it will be important to pay very specific attention to those in particular and to diary ahead to ensure that deadlines are met; and
  • if the sites have not been included, stay informed and diary ahead for the publication of further supplemental maps on 1 May 2023, as further sites may be added at that stage.

Notably, local authorities are required to make the maps available on their websites and at their offices and to publish their availability in one or more newspapers, but are not required to personally notify affected individuals, so that owners and developers will need to independently and actively look to establish whether lands they own or have rights to are intended to be taxed.

Should developers also take these actions?

Yes. Each “owner” will be entitled to make submissions and appeals in respect of the identification of the relevant site by the local authority and must also register as “owner” with Revenue. Importantly, though, the definition of “owner” is widely defined to include not just an owner as we would normally understand that term but also a “person who holds any estate, interest or right in accordance with which that person may carry out development on or to the land.” This will include developers with contractual rights to develop the land. Where two or more parties could be viewed as the “owner”, the legislation guides through which of those will ultimately register as the “liable person” but it will be important that both owners and developers of relevant sites understand their obligations and that they reach out to the other to ensure those obligations are appropriately met.

What land may be designated for ZLT?

The ZLT is only relevant to land that is zoned and serviced. Specifically, to be designated as chargeable to ZLT lands must be zoned: (a) either solely or primarily for residential use; or (b) for a mixture of uses including residential, and it must be reasonable to consider that those lands: (i) are serviced or have access to services; and (ii) are not physically affected by anything which would preclude the provision of housing. In addition, in the case of land zoned for a mixture of uses including residential, it must be reasonable to consider that the land is vacant or idle.

Express exclusions apply to this general position, including for land, that although zoned residential:

  • is required for social, community or State infrastructure (eg education, healthcare, transport, utilities and waste); or
  • provides services to residential areas and in respect of which commercial rates are paid; or
  • in respect of which the derelict sites levy is payable; or
  • is subject to a statutory designation that may preclude development.

Unlike the vacant site levy, ZLT is not concerned with questions about housing need, impact on amenity, whether the land has planning permission or not, or year-long vacancy.

The detail of the legislation is very important in respect of the appropriate designation and re-designation of lands to ZLT so that being familiar with that detail may make all the difference to designation, and so liability. Opportunities exist (a) to have lands excluded (i) on the basis that they don’t meet the relevant criteria, or (ii) for the initial process of identification only, that the lands should be re-zoned, and (b) to amend the date on which the lands satisfied the relevant criteria but these opportunities are limited and are only exercisable in accordance with strict timelines set out in the legislation. Affected owners and developers have a window of two months from the designated publication date of the draft maps at each of the two initial stages to make submissions and ultimately a further right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Where land does meet these criteria, and is included on the map, it will remain a relevant site until a certificate of compliance on completion of residential development on the site has been lodged with the local authority. Where you are delayed from achieving that by appeals or legal challenge, there is modest flexibility for deferral or refund.

Conclusions

Despite the forty odd pages of detailed legislative provisions, ZLT is based on some simple concepts, including at its heart, that owners and others with development rights in respect of any lands zoned for residential development must either take steps to develop those lands, or pay to leave them undeveloped. Whether such a simple approach can be applied to the complex art of housing development, to achieve the desired output of an increase in housing units, remains to be seen. In the meantime, owners and others with development rights in respect of any lands zoned wholly or partly for residential use, are advised to be ready to review and take appropriate steps in relation to the inclusion of their lands on the draft plans that become available on 1 November 2022.

 

Important Deadlines

Initial draft maps by LAs

1 November 2022

Submissions on initial draft maps

1 January 2023

Submissions assessed and responded to

1 April 2023

LA response can be appealed to ABP

1 May 2023

Supplemental maps by LAs

1 May 2023

Submissions on supplemental maps

1 June 2023

Submissions assessed and responded to

1 August 2023

LA response can be appealed to ABP

1 September 2023

Final maps published

1 December 2023

Annual revised maps

31 January from 2025

Annual “liability date”

1 February in each chargeable year (commencing 1 February 2024)

Annual “return date”

23 May in each chargeable year (commencing 23 May 2024)

“Valuation date”

1 February in initial chargeable year and every third 1 February after that

This document has been prepared by McCann FitzGerald LLP for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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