News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th May 2013

Mortgage approvals rise 23% in Ireland for April 2013


Latest figures from Irish Bankers’ Federation indicate renewed activity in mortgage market

New mortgage approvals rose by nearly 23 per cent in April compared with the previous month, according to the last figures from the Irish Bankers’ Federation (IBF).

A total of 1,433 mortgage with a combined value of €240 million were approved by lenders during the month.

The IBF’s mortgage approvals report indicated the vast majority (91 per cent) of approvals were for house purchase.

This segment of the market grew by 23 per cent in April on the previous month, and by 11.8 per cent on an annual basis.

With the total value of mortgage approvals for house purchases standing at €226 million in April, the average mortgage approval value for the purposes of house purchase was €167,418 – up 2.2 per cent on the same period last year.

The IBF’s director of public affairs, Felix O’Regan, said: “The increase in the number of new mortgage approvals recorded in April is welcome evidence of renewed activity in the mortgage market, a pattern which first emerged during the latter part of last year.”

“Following a more recent slowdown in activity in the first quarter of this year – due to seasonal factors and the expiration of mortgage interest relief – the latest approvals figures provide a firm indication of underlying growth in the market.”

Piba, the umbrella group which represents financial brokers, however, said the figures were “no cause for celebration”.

“Firstly it’s worth remembering that mortgage lending has dropped 95 per cent from peak. Secondly the figures are for approvals and the suspicion is that there may be quite a gap between approvals and drawdown,” Piba’s Rachel Doyle said.

“There is huge unmet need with the biggest impediment being a lack of lending. It is our experience that there has been a slight easing in the system of late and the April figure is likely to represent a further small improvement. However, it is not going even close to meeting current demand,” she said.

She said demand is being driven primarily by people believing that property prices are close to the bottom of the market (61 per cent) and the fact that it is as cheap to buy as rent (20 per cent).

“However, the biggest impediment to these people is the unnecessarily stringent conditions being imposed by lenders on people who do have the capacity to repay loans.”

Data collection for the IBF Mortgage Approvals Report began in August 2012 covering the period from January 2011.

Irish Men the biggest culprits for speeding on our roads


Half of all Irish drivers admit to breaking the speed limit – and men are the worst offenders, a new survey shows.

Research published today found 64pc of men admitted to speeding compared to 49pc of women.

Our top three bad habits are driving too fast, forgetting to dim lights when meeting on-coming cars and driving too close to the car in front.

Alarmingly, 10pc of drivers admitted to driving without a seatbelt in the past year, according to the survey carried for Liberty Insurance’s Safe Driver Campaign.

Both sexes are guilty of taking their eye off the road with almost one in five admitting to eating, shaving, applying makeup or brushing their hair while driving.

Almost half of Irish drivers have also experienced another driver forcing them to pull in to allow an overtake manoeuvre while only 4pc admitted to doing this.

Two-thirds of drivers have experienced another driver not using their indicator while overtaking but only 15pc admitted to this.

Most worryingly, only 1pc admitted to driving without a seatbelt while children were in the car while almost two in five drivers have said they observed this in the past year.

The research, conducted by Millward Brown, also saw men admit to suffering more from frustration on the road.

A total of 24pc of men admitted to unnecessarily beeping the horn compared to 16pc of women.

And a quarter of women admit to having taken more than three turns when trying to park compared to 17pc of men.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging motorists to think more about driver safety by examining their driver behaviour and that of others.

The top three bad habits that Irish drivers have admitted to are driving over the speed limit (56pc ), forgetting to dim lights when meeting on-coming cars (31pc ) and driving too close to the car in front (22pc).

Liberty Insurance head of marketing Annette Ni Dhathlaoi said: “ Many Irish drivers are guilty of bad habits such as tailgating, driving over the speed limit or taking our eye off the road which can lead to road accidents.”

Ireland will deploy ministers to counter ‘tax haven’ claims


Dublin will mount a diplomatic offensive to dispute claims made by a US Senate committee that it is a tax haven amid concern that last week’s congressional hearings with Apple executives have tarnished Ireland’s reputation.

Richard Bruton, the Irish business minister, said on Monday the government planned to write to the US Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations to counter claims it is a tax haven or had agreed a special deal with Apple enabling the company to avoid paying taxes.

“The government is absolutely clear: talk of Ireland being a tax haven is wrong,” he told reporters. “There are no special deals in Ireland.”

The Irish government plans to send senior ministers abroad to explain its tax strategy to officials and in media interviews in an attempt to repair some of the damage caused by the committee hearings. Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister, will begin the charm offensive this week when he meets officials at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Lucinda Creighton, Europe minister, will also meet US officials in Washington.

Ireland is recovering from a deep financial crisis and is hugely reliant on foreign investment with 150,000 people in the country employed by multinationals. Dublin is alarmed that the attention given to claims made by Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate committee, could prompt international bodies such as the OECD and EU to force it unilaterally to change its tax code.

Last week the investigations committee accused Dublin of being at the centre of a complex tax avoidance strategy devised by Apple that enabled the company to save US tax on $44bn in “otherwise taxable offshore income”. The report also claimed Apple reached a special deal with Ireland to apply a tax rate of less than 2 per cent on any profits that are taxable in the country – well below the 12.5 per cent Irish corporate tax rate.

Also this month, a UK parliamentary committee focused attention on Ireland’s tax code when it highlighted how Google managed to reduce its tax bill using the so-called “Double Irish” tax avoidance strategy.

This mechanism relies on two Irish incorporated companies. The first is tax resident in Ireland and pays royalties to use intellectual property, which generates expenses that reduce the amount of tax it pays in Ireland. The other company, typically incorporated in Ireland but not tax resident in the country, collects the royalties in a tax haven such as Bermuda or the Caymans, thereby avoiding Irish taxes.

Mr Bruton said there were opportunities for aggressive tax planning for companies that sought to arbitrage through the tax codes of different countries and Dublin would support global efforts to stop this.

“Ireland supports initiatives to deal with such aggressive tax planning but they will be done through international forums such as the OECD,” he said.

Mr Bruton said other countries had special deals with companies and suggested moving unilaterally could hurt Ireland’s competitiveness.

“When I go into the boardrooms competing for mobile investment, I know there are companies coming in behind me from Switzerland or other countries with alternative offers who are going to be offering special deals. We don’t do that,” he said.

Property tax database will help flush out 32,000 rogue landlords


The property tax database is going to be used to chase down almost 32,000 rogue landlords who have previously escaped detection.

Their identities are being revealed due to the fact that their tenants are contacting the Revenue to tell them that they are not the owners of the house. Under the law, all landlords are required to have registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

The Government is now going to change the law so that the Revenue can pass on the names and addresses of landlords identified by tenants to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).

They are now facing the prospect of fines of up to €4,000 or six months in jail if they are found not to have fulfilled their obligation to register.

And they also face the prospect of a Revenue tax audit to discover if they have been avoiding paying tax on their rental income. Junior Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivansaid she would be bringing through legislation to allow the PRTB to get information from the Revenue’s property tax database.

“The vast majority of landlords are compliant but the small ‘rogue’ element need to wake up to the fact that non-compliance won’t be tolerated and they will face the music,” she said.

According to the PRTB, there were 308,750 households living in private rental accommodation in the 2011 Census. But it currently has 277,000 tenancies registered – meaning that there are up to 31,750 landlords who have not signed up.

Science-funding agencies to forge a deal to allow US researchers to study in Ireland


The head of the science-funding agency Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Prof Mark Ferguson today signed an agreement with Dr Cora Marrett from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to pave the way for US researchers to do a stint in Ireland at one of SFI’s research centres.

Ferguson was in Berlin, Germany, today for a meeting of the Global Research Council where he forged the new partnership with Marrett, who is the acting director of the NSF.

Under the agreement, selected researchers from the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship programme will be able to carry out research at one of SFI’s research centres for between three and 12 months.

Ferguson said the partnership will create new opportunities for young, talented researchers while also strengthening the academic ties between Ireland and the US.

Areas the US researchers will be involved in while they study in Ireland will include nanotechnology, big data, marine energy and medical technologies.

Marrett said graduate students being trained as scientists and engineers in the US will increasingly collaborate and compete with their peers from around the globe throughout their careers.

She said the Graduate Research Fellowship programme would prepare the NSF’s graduate research fellows to engage in the global research space by connecting them to scientists and research infrastructure in Ireland and around the world.

Besides Ireland, other countries that take part in this alliance with the NSF include Switzerland, Chile, Norway, South Korea, Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Japan, France and Sweden.


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