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Sin Tax


Sin Tax

Somewhere amid the “blah blah” and noise of his budget speech our Minister of Finance let it be known this state’s part in the all so legally creative accounting scam known as the “double Dutch” was no more. What with that honest cop, the European Commission, breathing down his neck and questions being asked in various foreign parts it was hands up time.


This all followed many months and years of butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth denial. Talk of sweet heart deals and special relationships was all a nonsense. Ignore the crime scene tape and the men in the forensic coats. Nothing to see here, keep walking.


There was however, no sense of this on budget day. Instead of dwelling on any unpleasantness Noonan was a man who was moving forward. New arrangements were to be put in place. It seems the rules might change but the game was to remain the same.


In the normal course of events, when a defendant is found guilty, he might be expected to throw himself at the mercy of the court and claim the drink drove him to it. But in the up is really down, black is white, Alice in Wonderland world of Irish politics, we’re treated to the sight of the guilty laying out his next crime before an admiring judge and jury.


There was a time it had all seemed so easy and straight forward. Way back in the day somebody up above came forward with a plan. We needed the jobs, the corporations wanted more money. Set up shop here and all you’ll have to pay is 12.5 %, you’ll get access to the European markets and we’ll get more of our people working. That was the deal that was sold to them and that was the deal that was sold to us.


Except it appears that’s not really what was on offer. What was on offer has come to be known as the double Dutch (or double Irish) and was a tax scam. And while It may not have been above board, it was all perfectly legal. The cash sloshed back and forth from points A, B and C and the upshot of it all was your Facebooks and your Googles were not paying 12.5% but a figure closer to 3%.


What’s curious about this tale can hardly be that the state and big business are less than honest. It’s in their nature. What’s curious is the total absence of questioning or criticism from opposition or press. The final lines of an Irish Times editorial of Oct the 23rd sums this up “ Since 1956, when Ireland introduced a zero tax rate on export profits, successive governments have overcome challenges to the corporate tax regime. This time should

be no different.”


This time round the challenges to be overcome came in the form of questions, questions not from these parts but from foreign quarters. The asking of questions and challenging of power might normally be considered the preserve of the press but here in la la land, clearly different rules apply and this time should be no different


In the hours and days preceding the budget, a raft of new initiatives where floated. The air waves were thick with stories of fresh incentives to stimulate investments and tax breaks for foreign executives. There’s been talk of “off the record” teleconference with various companies. What was said and to who….well it’s off the record.


The media’s take on all this has being unquestioning and indeed admiring. It seems what really matters are the states effort to “overcome challenges to the corporate tax regime” and set up the latest cut to the bone tax lure for Investors.


What other sweet deals and special arrangements have been cut over our heads? Is there any else we should know about? How can we seriously be expected to judge the worth of a deal when we don’t know what’s on the table….? There’s never really been an honest debate on what we thought this country’s tax arrangements were let alone about what those arrangements turned out to be.


The only people really left out of all this are the Irish public. Our political masters don’t feel the need to offer answers, are press and media don’t see the point in asking questions. Everyone is instead invited to be in on the act. Were complicit, invited to remain silent. Like children hiding under the table while the adults discuss what’s best for them.

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