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Taxing times in Ireland

In association with

The ramifications of Ireland's tax system

How did we arrive at this point, and what should we do?

The Ireland that I grew up in - 1980s Ireland - was a great place, but it had both it's tough side and it's dark side.

The struggle to break free from the UK had left it's mark. The 1916 rising was followed by the full War of Independence with Britain, which was then followed by the Treaty deal with the UK, which was followed by the internal civil war. Added to that, we had all World Wars of the last century. It wasn't until 1949 that Ireland became a fully independent Republic.


Ireland initally embarked on a policy of protectionism. In an effort to re-establish Irish identity, many mistakes were made. Beuatiful buildings we inherited from the British were raised to the ground. It's never wise to cut off your nose to spite your face.

By the time we arrived in the 1980s, emigration from the Ireland had become a necessity for many. Remember, the whole tech and IT thing was only just underway, so there were literally no computers and jobs in things like graphic design etc.

So something had to be done. Charlie Haughey from Fianna Fail held the office of Taoiseach several times. A controversial figure, there was always an heir of mystery about him. But he setup two things: Firstly, the International Financial Services Centre on Dublin's docklands. The idea was to get a financial services centre going in Dublin. So if you set up shop in the Docklands, you got lots of tax breaks, as well as employment and other grants.

Secondly, a special rate of tax was brought in for manufacturing industries - they would have there profits taxed at a lowly 10%. There was one famous case in Dublin. A company would import unripened bananas into Dublin, and then ripen them in a facility there. They claimed they were in fact carrying out a manufacuring process. Needless to say, the judge was not impressed!

Nor was the European Commission impressed with Ireland's tax regime. They told Ireland they were favoring one sector of the economy over others, and that this was against the fair play rules of the European Single Market.

Then a clever move by Ireland - they made the entire corporation tax rate 12.5% -- no matter what sector you operated in. And that's continued to this day.

And - it worked! But the problem is, it has worked too well. As Samuel Beckett said: "This is earth".

Let us be quite blunt. Ireland is a tax haven. Large multinational corporations setup shop here to avoid paying higher taxes elsewhere. They do so perfectly legally. Combined with Brexit and the forces of globalisation, we have an influx of people into the country. Then add in the Financial Services Centre setup by Haughey, so there are lots of bankers in town. The problem is, we don't have enough properties for everyone. Regular native Irish people are suffering. If you're visiting Dublin, be prepared to see numerous bodies forced to sleep rough on the Streets of Dublin. The Government is forced to accommodate whole families in hotels, a very poor long term solution to the homeless issue.

The solution?

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