Category Archives: Irish corporate tax

22/10/16: Irish 12.5% Tax Rate and Someone’s Loose Lips

It has been some time since I commented here on the matters relating to Irish corporate taxation. For a number of reasons not worth covering. But one piece of rhetoric in the post-AppleTax ruling by the EU Commission has caught my mind today: the statement from the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the issue of 'Loose Lips Sink Ships'.

Here's what happened: as reported in the Irish Independent, the Taoiseach "warned that "loose talk" about taxation in Ireland was potentially damaging in the face of the Brexit threat. "Ireland will obviously debate these things constructively but to be clear about it, our 12.5pc corporate tax rate is not up for grabs... It's always been 12-and-a-half and it will remain so."" The statement was prompted by the rumours (err... reports) "the European Commission has not ruled out examining 300 more of Ireland's tax rulings."

Mr Kenny said that "The commission have never stated that there are other impending state aid cases against Ireland and to suggest otherwise is mischievous, is misleading, and is wrong... And that type of loose talk is potentially very damaging to our country. It does impact upon companies looking - particularly given the Brexit situation - as to where they might want to invest."

So here's the problem, Mr. Kenny: no one is seriously suggesting that the problem with Irish corporate taxation is 12.5% headline rate. I have not seen any reasonably informed source commenting on this. The problem - as as subject of investigations by the EU Commission in the recent past - is the granting of preferential loopholes that went well beyond the 12.5% rate.

So what grave 'threat' to Ireland's tax regime is Mr. Kenny addressing by setting up a straw man argument about 12.5% rate 'rumours'? Answering that question would likely expose whose lips are loose on the matter. My suspicion is that Mr. Kenny deliberately creates confusion between the discussion of the headline rate (which is not happening) and the discussion of the loopholes (which is probably on-going, because (a) things might not have stopped with Apple; and (b) global tax reforms - e.g. BEPS-initiated process - are still rolling out. If so, then it is Taoiseach's lips that might be doing Ireland's 12.5% headline rate some damage.

Personally, I believe Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax rate is just fine. And I also believe that special, individual company arrangements on any tax matters are not fine. I also believe that Ireland should phase the latter out in a transparent fashion, instead of creating another maze of non-transparent and gamable by the larger corporation 'knowledge development box' incentives. Incidentally, tax personalization for Irish entities continues, it appears, with the publication of the Finance Bill this week, where tax procedures for Section 110 companies valuation of inter-company loans was left largely a matter for individual arrangements. BEPS will take care of the rest, or it might not, but that would no longer be a matter of Ireland's failure and it won't challenge our 12.5% tax rate.

7/10/15: Two Reports, One Ireland, Hundreds of Billions in MNCs’ Profits

Two interesting headlines in recent days brought back the memories of recent hot-flash splashes of news regarding Ireland's position as a corporate tax haven. These are:

  1. Irish response to the completion of the OECD review of the options for addressing the imbalances in the global corporate taxation systems:, and
  2. A less publicised in Ireland study from the U.S. estimating to volumes of corporate tax optimisation/avoidance with honourable place reserved for Ireland in it:
Have fun tying them together... but here are some choice quotes from the Citizens for tax Justice study referenced in the Reuters article:

"The Congressional Research Service found that in 2008, American multinational companies collectively reported 43 percent of their foreign earnings in five small tax haven countries: Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Yet these countries accounted for only 4 percent of the companies’ foreign workforces and just 7 percent of their foreign investments."

"For example, a 2013 Senate investigation of Apple found that the tech giant primarily uses two Irish subsidiaries — which own the rights to some of Apple’s intellectual property — to hold $102 billion in offshore cash. Manipulating tax loopholes in the U.S. and other countries, Apple has structured these subsidiaries so that they are not tax residents of either the U.S. or Ireland, ensuring that they pay no taxes to any government on the lion’s share of the money. One of the subsidiaries has no employees."

"Google uses accounting techniques nicknamed the “double Irish” and the “Dutch sandwich,” according to a Bloomberg investigation. Using two Irish subsidiaries, one of which is headquartered in Bermuda, Google shifts profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda, shrinking its tax bill by approximately $2 billion a year"

A handy graph:
And another one:

Do note that per above table, Ireland is a conduit for the U.S. corporates' tax activities that amount to 42% of our GDP, while Switzerland (the country we so keenly like to tell the world is a 'real' tax haven) facilitates activities amounting to 'only' 9% of its GDP. 

You can read the entire report and see associated data here:

And while you are at it, here is a little Bloomberg piece from back 2014 on another whirlwind of activities: corporate inversions. What is notable in this article is that we are now having inversions of inverted companies, whereby new re-domiciling firms buy into previously re-domiciled companies to land themselves a PO Box presence in Ireland.

So back to that OECD reform proposal, therefore, that involves addressing the issue of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and is apparently of no threat to us in Ireland... You can try reading all the legalese here, or just give it a thought - tax optimisation by U.S. (only U.S.) MNCs via Ireland amounts to up to 42% of our GDP and likely less than 1-2% of the companies workforce is present here. How much of that 42% booked via Ireland is 'base erosion & profit shifting'? Ah, yes... let's not ask questions we don't want answered. Let's just have a breakfast at Tiffany's while repeating that "Ireland has a low rate transparent system and IDA insist on substance for any companies that it supports and I think those are the three pillars that supports our offering and I think Beps is about moving all international systems to a more transparent, clear system."

Don't laugh...