Earlier today I wrote about the round of 'assert-deny' salvos fired across Ireland's deck by German economic policy adviser and the Department of Finance (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/07/2672014-of-germans-bearing-ugly-truth.html). This was hardly the only defensive that Ireland Inc had to run this week. A much larger one came on foot of the US President Barak Obama singling Ireland out as the key global player in the dirty game of corporate tax inversions.
Newsflow was not too generous to Ireland on this front (corporate tax evasion and optimisation) this week.
It started with a report by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/24/deals-taxinversions-lawfirms-idUSL2N0PK1L820140724) on how Irish legal eagles are leading the way in advertising this land of human capital and regulation arbitrage riches as a [not a] tax haven. Singled out in the report are: Arthur Cox, A&L Goodbody, and Matheson. But other firms are into this game too. And not just in the US. In fact, there are plenty 'country specialists' employed in the legal offices in Ireland and around the world, tasked with 'selling' Ireland's 'unique competitiveness points' to potential clients interested in optimising their tax exposures.
Obama weighted in later in the week and, of course, the Government had to weigh in with a hefty doses of 'we deny we do it': http://www.businessworld.ie/bworld/livenews.htm?a=3192721 and http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/25/ireland-tax-inversions-idUSL6N0Q03LS20140725
The problem is that denying direct Government involvement is hardly a defence. Facts are: Ireland is being promoted as a tax optimisations destination and not solely on foot of our headline 12.5% tax rate. This promotion is known, brazen and visible, and it comes via law firms with direct links - contractual and advisory - the the Government and the State.
And the stakes, relating to the above promotion, are high: http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/accountants-warn-tax-changes-could-harm-investment-30457978.html on policy side and on business side: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/google-pays-27m-corporation-tax-on-17bn-revenue-30458696.html
In short, things are ugly and are going to get even more ugly as OECD is preparing road maps for addressing more egregious abuses, while the US, UK, EU, European member states and even Australia and Japan are now firmly in the need to 'do something' about losses of Government revenues arising from sharp tax optimisation practices. Irish Government can put as many junior ministers as it wants onto RTE to talk about Ireland being 'unfairly singled-out' or 'misunderstood' or whatever else, but
- Fact remains fact: tax arbitrage policies of this state are starting to cost us dearly in reputation and actual economic costs (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/06/2562014-imf-on-corporate-tax-spillovers.html and http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/06/1762014-irelands-regulatory-resource.html and http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/02/822014-yahoos-tax-base-err-optimisation.html and http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/01/2112014-no-special-ict-services-tax-but.html)
- We are but a small open economy caught (due to our own fault) in between the irate giants who not only set global policies, but also control our access to markets and investment
Time for us to stop playing ostriches with our ministers, but to get into the game of leading the reforms at home and internationally.