Category Archives: Corporate tax haven

21/9/16: Apple Tax Case: Not the Rate, the Loopholes

My column for the Village covering the Apple Tax fiasco:

As it says on the 'tin' - the problem with Apple Tax is not the rate of corporate taxation set in law in Ireland (the 12.5% 'red line' rate), and not tax competition, nor the benign nature of tax exemptions that Ireland bestows on all companies, including the MNCs. The problem is that these competitive aspects of the Irish regime are simply not enough for the likes of Apple, which pursued and obtained access to exemptions that any ordinary company operating in Ireland cannot avail of.

Hence, the red herring of the arguments that the EU Competition ruling is an attack on Irish tax rate. It is, instead, a challenge to the asymmetric preferences granted in the past (and still in use during the ongoing phase-out period) to a handful of MNCs over and above domestic companies. Lest we forget, for decades, Irish State had no qualms operating an openly discriminatory taxation regime that treated foreign investment-backed companies differently from domestic companies. Lest we omit considering the present, Irish State still has no qualms taxing human capital of its residents at rates far in excess of those applying to physical and financial capital. Lest we fail to think about it, Irish State has no qualms asymmetrically allocating the burden of the crisis to Irish people over and above our banks, foreign investors, foreign bondholders and vulture funds.

I am one of the most vocal advocates of low (benign) taxation, flat tax, competitive regulatory regimes (coupled with robust enforcement) and other means for improving the functioning of the private markets. Always been one and remain. I support real investment in the economy, both foreign and domestic and believe in a level playing field for entrepreneurs and enterprises, alike. But, folks, the debate around Apple Tax is not about 12.5% tax rate and Ireland's tax autonomy, but about asymmetric nature of privilege.

29/7/16: Tax Regime, Apple, Fraud?

We have finally arrived: a Nobel Prize winner, former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (1997-2000) on Bloomberg, calling Apple's use of the Irish Tax Regime 'a fraud':

This gotta be doing marvels to our reputation as a place for doing business and for trading into Europe and the U.S.

The same as Facebook's newest troubles:

But do remember, officially, Ireland is not a tax haven, nor is there, officially, anything questionable going on anywhere here. Just 26.3 percent growth in GDP per annum, and booming corporate tax revenues that the Minister for Finance can't explain.

2/2/16: MNC Ireland: A new Documentary

A new and well-worth watching documentary on the power of multinational companies in Ireland and Ireland's status as a corporate tax haven is available here:

Note: Strangely enough, the documentary cites me as a Chairman of the IRBA (which I was at the time). It is worth repeating again that I never speak on behalf of any organisation I am involved with and the IRBA never had a corporate opinion on any policy-related issues. I only express my own personal views.

26/11/15: On a long enough time line: Irish corporate inversions

Recently, I covered the Pfizer-Allergan ‘merger’ just as Irish media navel gazed into the usual ‘jobs for Ireland’ slumber.  [You can trace much of it from here:]

Now, few links that catch up with my analysis:

  1. Irish Times reported that the Exchequer may gain up to EUR620m in Pfizer’s Allergan deal, annually. Key quote: “Last year, Pfizer paid an effective tax rate of 26.5 per cent as a US company. Post-merger, it expects to pay between 17 and 18 per cent across the group. In Ireland, it will pay our 12.5 per cent tax rate on any international income routed through the new Dublin operation.” Err, Irish Times, no. Pfizer will be paying lower effective rate than 12.5% because it will be able to avail of the famous/infamous OECD-allegedly-compliant ‘Knowledge Development Box’. How much lower? Ah, who knows.
  2. Bloomberg covers the same deal with a heading: “Pfizer's Viagra Tax Dollars Head to Dublin as U.S. Loses Again”. A bit of a miss, as Ireland already milks Viagra fortunes, though with the new ‘investment’ that will most likely increase. Key quote: ““We are not pushing for inversions,” Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told reporters in Brussels on Monday, referring to the controversial transaction meant to cut corporate tax rates. The agency charged with winning investment for Ireland “never promotes inversions. It’s a decision for the two companies.” While Noonan said Allergan and Pfizer were plainly merging for “tax advantages,” the government has no problem with the deal as both companies had “substantial” operations in Ireland.” You have to be laughing… the same defence [we are not doing anything, all their fault] has been used in the past by Swiss and other tax havens to justify the arrival of tax-‘optimising’ money into the banks vaults. Now, it is Ireland’s turn. But for comical relief, we have this: “Patrick Coveney, chief executive of Greencore Group Plc, the Irish food company that’s the biggest sandwich maker in the U.K., told state-owned RTE Radio in Dublin on Tuesday that Pfizer’s proposed deal builds on its and Allergan’s presence in Ireland.” Yes, sandwich maker knows a thing or two about pharma and biotech. Next up: newsagent comments on new nuclear power plant design in the UK…
  3. Not to be left behind, U.S. politicians are jumping on a carbon copy of the bandwagon too scared to actually join the bandwagon itself. Per Zerohedge: “Hillary Slams "Unfair" Tax Inversions After Sanders Calls Pfizer/Allergan Deal "Disaster For Americans”” Apparently, following in the footsteps of the completely out-of-touch Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton “firmly believes businesses should get ahead by building a stronger economy here at home, rather than using tax loopholes to shift earnings overseas, or to move abroad to escape paying their fair share.” Hillary went on to do what politicians do best: promise to do something. “In the weeks ahead [no idea when] I will propose specific steps to prevent these kind of transactions… I urge Congress to act immediately [pretty definitive timeframe when urging other to do something though] to make sure the biggest corporations pay their fair share, and regulators also should look hard at stronger actions they can take to stop companies from shifting earnings overseas.” So in basic term, Hillary has nothing to say other than that she has to say something. That’s novel.

All of this would be gas were it not serious. Despite Irish Government promises to curb ‘harmful’ tax practices, despite our vocal ‘compliance’ with the spirit of the OECD ‘reforms’, Ireland remains a premier destination for tax inversions from the U.S. Worse, everyone now knows this, and no one is doing anything about it. Worse, yet, everyone is next going to be aware of the simple fact that no one is doing anything about it.

On a long enough timeline, things will be easier in the short run as Irish Exchequer milks the rest of the world for tax optimising commissions. In the long run… well, we might have to start looking into how we will pay all these future pensions when the penny finally does drop in Washington and Berlin…

6/11/15: Allergan & Pfizer: More Happiness for OECD Tax Reformists

On foot of couple previous posts relating to Ireland-bound pharma inversions, here is an interesting link to the Bloomberg coverage of the Allergen shenanigans:

With a nice chart to accompany:

Couple of links to my previous posts on the topic, covering

“We love your tax compliance theories, OECD!” Signed: Enda.