Homeowners who refuse to pay the new €100 household charge could be hit with fines of up to €2,500.
The new charge, which comes into force in January, will impact on 1.6 million homeowners. While working out at just €2 a week, it is expected that the charge will rise in future Budgets when it will eventually be replaced with a property tax.
Despite calls for a boycott of the charge from some opposition TDs, the controversial charge is set to be passed into law later this week.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan claims the new charge, which he is implementing, will bring in €160 million next year but Fianna Fáil claim this will be closer to €100 million.
The charge must be paid in full by the end of March. Alternatively homeowners can make arrangements to pay in four installments over the course of the year by direct debit.
Despite boycott threats, Minister Hogan said there would be penalties for those who refuse to pay.
A late payment fee of €10 will apply if it is paid within six months of the due date; €20 if between six and 12 months and €30 if the payment is 12 months late.
“These penalty provisions are proportionate to the level of the household charge and are similar to the provisions that apply under Revenue legislation in respect of the late filing and payment of certain taxes,” said the minister.
He continued: “They will act as an incentive to pay the self-assessment household charge on time.”
Mr Hogan said that after two years of failing to pay, the liability would rise to €280 when the charges, late-payment fees and late-payment interest were all taken into account.
Mr Hogan said: “I want the message to go out clearly to those who are liable to pay this necessary household charge on time, rather than incurring late-payment fees and penalties.
“Local authorities will also have power to take prosecutions against owners who fail to discharge their liability to pay.
“Prosecution will be by way of summary proceedings and a court may impose a class C fine under the Fines Act 2010, which ranges from €1,000 to €2,500.”
The Government will run an ad campaign in the New Year to warn homeowners that they have three months in which to pay the €100 charge.
Payment can be made by post or through a dedicated website which will be operated by the Local Government Management Agency. The charge can also be paid by instalment through four direct debits.
People who rent their homes will not pay the charge, as the liability rests with the owner.
Exemptions will also apply to: unsold properties; social, voluntary or charitable housing; homes owned by the Government or HSE; or where a person is forced to leave their home due to illness, for example where an elderly person moves into a nursing home.
Exemptions will also apply to people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, and for those living in certain unfinished housing developments. The names of the housing developments will be announced early in the New Year.
A full list of those who will be exempt from the charge will be drafted this week.