So you’ve heard about Postal Codes have you?


academyHouseAnPostThe Independent today headlined with an ‘investigative’ piece detailing how the revenue will be using ‘sophisticated mapping technology provided by GeoDirectory to quantify access to services and apply a multiplier to the property tx to be implemented later this year. In a nutshell (and details of the entire scheme remain publicly hazy – let’s talk about that tonight) they propose to triangulate access to services such as the Luas, the DART, shops, schools and other amenities to increase tax payable – assuming you use things closer to you. The first question I have to ask is : Is this is overly simplistic (fair, equitable, legal) way of determining taxable property value? Clearly it is deserving of deeper investigation itself…but there you go. What do you think?

The second question has to be whether this locational information should be commercialised. Check out GeoDirectory. It’s a commercial entity operated jointly by An Post and the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. When I saw that they were selling the service of locating addresses and buildings in Ireland I was struck by the continuing discussion over the lack of postal codes in Ireland. Unlike most western European countries Ireland does not have a publicly accessible uniform locational system. I will admit that I was very impressed with An Post in the time I have been in Ireland. That you could address a letter to a person in a town of 15,000 and still have it find its way to the intended recipient the within 24 hours floors me. In Canada there has been a uniform postal code system for decades now, but I could not count on next day delivery on places even within the same town when using a postal code that specifies an address within a small block radius – let alone addressed to a personal name with no clear address. An Post delivers. Yet, when it comes to the new streamlined machine-readable logistical mesh that we increasingly rely on, such addressing simply doesn’t compute. Yet, we still seem years off of adopting a uniform postal identifier system. Then I saw GeoDirectory and realise that it already exists, but is being controlled and being sold on a commercial basis. The question this raises is whether tyhis stymies the open usage of uniform locators as in other countries where the populace is empowered – often through being able to use the postal code system (and its associated boundaries) as a means of interaction and community involvement. Does the commercial control of uniform location identifiers hamper Ireland’s engagement with open government initiatives that seem to be flourishing in other areas?

14 thoughts on “So you’ve heard about Postal Codes have you?”

  1. I don’t think it’s fair. I live very close to the city centre within a 20 minute walk of Stephens Green, Grafton St etc. but I don’t use the Dart or these other amenities they are talking about. I get out of Dublin most weekends too. So while already paying PRTB, NPPR, property tax and soon living near ‘facilities’ or ‘amenities’ tax and water charges it feels very unjust. They should just put a tax on the actual DART ticket or whatever else they feel that need to generate revenue from. I pay a huge amount of tax as it is and shouldn’t have to bear the burden of amenities that other people use.

    1. I know how revenue are doing this but I can’t tell I’m afraid. They have been preparing for this for a long time – way before now. Gavin the train and dart etc have gone up substantially. For me to take the train to dublin from Newbridge would cost me 68.50 per week up until last December. And this has increased this year.

  2. The fact that revenue would base a property tax valuation on environment. factors and have not open debate on the criteria, or even external input, strikes me as very heavy handed, if not opening fascist it is heading in that direction. Revenue are saying on the one hand that you can set the valuation yourself and yet it seems that revenue are isolated from the reality of daily living and have ignored that bus, rail, luas and petrol prices have gone up hugely in the last 2 years since the global crisis,.The above also does not take into account that home rental prices are still increasing and property prices are in free fall. Which begs the questions does revenue want to set an artifically high property tax in time of uncertainty, knowing that property prices will fall further? Will they reset their property tax estimates when the house prices reach rock bottom. If your valuation differs from theirs, what then? Will you have to go through a huge amount of red tape with revenue to have your valuation accepted over theirs?
    All the above ignores the fact the information that what we thought was private has freely changed hands from a semi-state body to a civil service department.

  3. Mapflow is another provider of this type of information. (Geocoding) It is being used by the insurance companies to narrow down the risk profiles of insuring a house in a particular area which is flagged as a flood risk. Prior to this information being made available the underwriters would either blacklist the town or blacklist a particular road in a town. Now they have the option of evaluating a specific address on a road or part of the town which wouldn’t be susceptible to flooding.

    1. Are insurers also using this for car insurance? I recently changed address and queried my insurer why they had increased my premium. After some persusasion! they eventually conceded that the risk was based on the area and not the actual address. This really annoyed me as the area I live in wouldnt have the best name, one road in particular would be very rough, however the road I live on is really quiet and trouble free. The insurers however paint me with the same brush as the minority rough road. How fair is that?

    1. Cheers Alan, the best bit about this journal article is the 41 comments after it! i have to say, for me reading news articles, I always look at the reader comments to see if other readers are thinking the same thing after reading the article! there is nearly always a troll, a conspiracy theorist and a sarcasm expert – without fail!

  4. Very good Alan. I like that the state is actually using social media to cultivate input and on a very serious issue – the impact of social media on which is th subject of much study. Well spotted.

  5. On Shawn’s point of An Post (sans postal codes) being able to deliver a letter within a usual 24 hour time frame – I worked for 2 years as a postman (1995-7). The local/tacit knowledge of fír an phoist cannot be underestimated. The framework of An Post, has been built upon years of establishing relationships. Postmen develop mind maps of their route. Even when Postman A is absent, Postman X providing cover follows the exact working method of Postman A. Crucially however, it is in the set up of the delivery – 2 sorting processes by ALL postmen – that all mail will be classified and grouped, reflecting the route of each postman. This way, no mail can escape the sort process, and where there is confusion – the process of elimination (and a touch of bounded rationality) will narrow destination, providing a correct delivery for an item of mail.

    That this still works today is remarkable, but not unsurprising given the size of the country and the fall off in “snail mail”. The system, unchanged will operate effectively.

    In the matter of self-assessing property value, “there will be up to 19 different valuation bands, starting at under €100,000 and increasing in €50,000 tranches”. This gives owners ample room to evaluate. But the difficulty lies in what value they place on “their” local amenities. So you can buy a loaf of bread and a pint of milk 400 yards from your doorstep. You can hurl a ball from your back garden into the local primary school. Great! Amenities!! What criteria will be used to measure the worth of such amenities? The property owner may consider them to be of far, far less value than do the instruments of government!

    I ma currently involved in the development of an eGov project using GeoDirectory. It was also used in 2006 in this project

    It is a great use of the technology. Opponents of the Property Tax will view it as Big Brotherish. “Bleedin’ guvurmint spyin’ on me an’ all”. But it’s not the technology they should be worried about, but more the instruments and criteria of property evaluation.

  6. Is this is overly simplistic way of determining taxable property value?
    Yes it is. It only captures ‘potential’ benefits and not everyone will be a user of a service. I for one don’t like paying for goods or service I don’t use. Likewise it doesn’t capture negative benefits, wind farm turbines, copper face jacks etc. There should be a balance. A property tax is long overdue. It should be based off the size of the property and landing, nothing else.
    Question should be where does the money go? I think it should be spent locally.
    Should locational information be commercialised?
    It’s An Post, while they provide a service there is competition, they need to make a profit. If they can sell ideas to the government, why not?
    Brian Collins wrote “All the above ignores the fact the information that what we thought was private has freely changed hands from a semi-state body to a civil service department.” Could not agree more, I wonder if they track the owners of the mail I get?
    Looking forward to the water meter arriving real soon 

  7. So the government and revenue are going to decide how much your house is worth, so that they tax you on the property that you have probably already paid a lifetimes worth of property tax through your payment of stamp duty, if of course your were one of the hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the country who did.
    The property tax is an absolute disgrace as it is and now we are going to be expected to accept a value for our homes (most of which arent worth the paper the deeds were written on) which will probably be well over what the actual market value is.
    So the government will be controlling the housing market values!

  8. I was watching the vincent browne show the other night and and at the end of the show they normally do a round up of the papers and one of the papers had an article saying that 50% of the house valuations done by the revenue commissioners we’re wrong so if that’s case I don’t think many people will have fate in the system. I think the government should of waitied for
    full countrywide database of house prices before announcing this tax and it appears to a higher tax for urban dwellers

  9. Just came across this and it opens up old favourites for me. I lived near a place in Dublin once where the residents collectively took their council to court to have their post code decreased by 2 numbers, because the estate builder advertised the houses incorrectly. Did it matter? Yes, certainly to them in terms of perception of value, unfortunately perhaps . It can be hard to explain this phenomenon to people outside the City. I also lived in a rural community where houses had no numbers, but the post man just knew who you were, so that also rang true for the article. I notice businesses in rural areas are giving Sat Nav co-ordinates for directions in web sites, so again technology comes to the rescue, but I would not like to be landed with the task of putting an actual value on every house today for tax purpose, the word value in this case could be very complex.

  10. Hi Gary. Yeah totally agree. Its mad in some rural communities – the postman does just know who you are. It reminds me of a time when I visited one of the elephite islands and the little island of Cipan. In Cipan you don’t have to buy insurance for your car or register your car there because the policeman knows everyone. Its an amazing little island though. Its like taking a step back in time. However, i heard Government here are looking at introducing postal codes so everyones property can be identified. Those old D4 addresses may well become a thing of the past. Technology seems to be encouraging change in our day-to-day lives. Apart from postal codes, I heard people were using double barrell names more so people can find them on facebook.

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