Sunday, 22 April 2007

Is Ireland a tax haven?


A certain Big Bill has commented on an earlier post to the effect that for Ireland “Things ‘took off’ when you decided to be the Tax Haven of the World and get on the EU dole Big Time. Since when does a nation that lives off the rest of the world's tax dollars get to whinge about how high its taxes are?”.

Now Bill, you strike the Savant as cranky – are you suffering from piles? However, you do raise an issue that has gained currency in many poorly-informed arenas. Is Ireland a tax haven? Well, my view is that a tax haven is characterized by having little or no indigenous earning capacity (industry, services), relying instead on a minimal tax regime to attract shelf companies which nominally/artificially conduct their business, with the added bonus of a ‘no questions asked’ approach to regulation. Locations such as the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, and Lichtenstein spring to mind, as well as Liberia and Panama for shipping.

Now Ireland does have low corporate taxes, mid-range personal taxes, and high indirect taxes such as VAT. Corporate income taxes account for 13 percent of all tax revenue in Ireland as compared to 6 percent in the U.S., 8 percent in the U.K., 7 percent in France, 3 percent in Ger­many.

Doesn’t sound like a tax haven to me, Bill.

If being a tax haven explains Ireland’s wealth (we’re now about fifth in the world in per capita GDP) why doesn’t every poor country do it? There must be another explanation. Could it be, as Bill mentions, the EU dole? Well, we’ve been in the EU since 1973, and most of the ‘dole’ came between then and the early nineties (we’re now in fact net contributors). Yet, we had a massive recession from the early eighties to the early nineties. Meanwhile, countries such as Greece and Portugal received as much as we did, yet never came close to emulating our achievement.


More Bill Bollocks.

Now let’s take another angle. Ireland’s home bred technology companies have achieved world-wide pre-eminence in their spheres. Here are some:


-> Trintech – e-payments
-> Baltimore – Public Key Infrastructure
-> Iona Technologies – Middleware
-> Riverdeep – e-learning
-> Aldiscon – telecoms
-> XSiL – Semiconductor laser micro-machining systems
-> Datalex – travel systems


And what about Ryanair (rotten bastards, I know), now carrying more passengers than any other European airline. Ireland also punches massively above its weight in terms of providing CEOs for MNCs, Peter Sutherland – BP, Goldman Sachs, Matt Barret – Barclays, Dave O’Reilly – Chevron, Gerry Robinson - Allied Domecq, Granada, Tony O’Reilly - Heinz.

And remember, Irish companies in the US have almost as many employees as US companies in Ireland. And all this, Big Bill - are you still with us Bill? - from a country of less than 4 million people.

The explanation for our success is for another day, and all of this isn’t to say it’s going to last. In fact your Savant believes we could be in deep shite fairly soon if a number of major issues aren’t addressed. But it does say that Bill is talking through his aching arse. Preparation H Bill, shrinks those piles in no time!

1 comment:

K. O'D. said...

Dont forget that some countries in eastern europe have 0% corporation tax rate.