Senator Thomas Byrne has said the Government’s Valuation Bill, which passed third stage in the Seanad today, will result in voluntary sports clubs being liable for commercial rates if they rent out pitches or club facilities to generate an income.
Minister Simon Harris introduced an amendment to the Valuation Act which was ostensibly designed to reduce the unfair rates burden on sports clubs which have a bar on their premises and to respond to legislation on the issue previously brought forward in the Dáil by my colleague Deputy Barry Cowen.
However, the amendment as drafted by the Government, while dealing with that critical issue, goes a lot further and specifically includes income generated by sports clubs (other than memberships fees) as making premises liable for rates.
Previously under the 2001 Valuation Act, land developed for sporting purposes was exempt from rates. This had been an important step in the development of better sports facilities up and down the country, although bars were always excluded.
“I am calling on the Government to be fair to voluntary sporting clubs throughout the country. This legislation has the potential to impose a serious burden on them. The legislation still has quite a number of stages to proceed through and I hope that the matter would be reconsidered. “
The debate on the Valuation Bill has also seen the Government jettison its commitment to introduce self assessment for rateable valuations.
“Self assessment of rateable valuation was seen as a major reform to help business and to set realistic valuations on properties for rates. It has been changed to “occupier assisted valuation” which is a considerable watering down. This is completely different from what Minister Brendan Howlin promised in 2012.
“The Government promised reform of rates, but small business is not a winner with this bill with the main losers being small sports clubs throughout the country,” concluded Senator Byrne.