Use of tax havens is an international issue, says Gilmore

Tánaiste says taxation is not just for those who cannot afford accountants

Tánaiste  Eamon Gilmore: “The provision of public services and the financing of an economy is a collective responsibility, not something that falls just on working people.” Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: “The provision of public services and the financing of an economy is a collective responsibility, not something that falls just on working people.” Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 06:00

The use of tax havens by the wealthy has to be dealt with by the international community, which should deal more effectively with the issue, according to Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore.

Referring to the disclosures last week concerning the widespread use of offshore locations Mr Gilmore said: “The provision of public services and the financing of an economy is a collective responsibility, not something that falls just on working people.”

He said wealthy people used all sorts of ways to put their money out of sight in tax havens but Ireland was working on the matter with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has a very strong approach on international anti-avoidance measures.

He did not believe that multinationals having headquarter operations in Ireland that used offshore locations as part of their tax avoidance strategies, put the country in a difficult position when it came to the subject of tax havens.

There was a responsibility on everyone to contribute to taxation to ensure that the common good was provided for, he said. Taxation was not just for those who could not afford to avail of accountants to organise their affairs and use tax havens.

Mr Gilmore, who is heading a trade mission to Turkey involving 24 Irish companies, said Ireland holding the Presidency of the European Union can help to open doors for companies wanting to do business in Turkey. He said the Muslim country's EU accession talks had been stalled for more than two years and Ireland had set itself the objective during its EU presidency of restarting the negotiations.

There was pre-accession European Commission funding of €6 billion to €7 billion available to Turkey for the building of infrastructure, energy projects and some areas of governance, he said.

"Clearly there are opportunities there for Irish companies and I think that it is a timely moment to be in Turkey, talking to the government about accession, and to be able to open doors for Irish companies that may be able to get contracts from the pre-accession funding that is now available to Turkey."

He said he did not think anyone would blame Ireland if whatever credit accrued to it in Turkey arising from the accession negotiations, was used by Irish companies to "sail in on the tide in terms of getting doors opened for them".

He said Ireland was not the only country seeking to grow business with Turkey and there was lots of competition. "Diplomacy these days is economic," he said. Ireland's reputation, which was in shreds two years ago, had been restored and it needed to capitalise on that.

The EU presidency was held by Cyprus prior to Ireland assuming the role "and for understandable reasons nothing happened on Turkey's accession." However Mr Gilmore said he was confident that a new aspect, or chapter, of the negotiations, would now be opened, the first such development in two and a half years.

Turkey has the sixth largest economy in Europe and has seen significant economic growth over recent years. Its level of trade with Ireland has also grown significantly. As well as holding high-level political negotiations in Istanbul and Ankara, Mr Gimore is to visit a refugee camp on the border with Syria during his four-day visit. It is expected that a number of business announcements will be made by Irish companies over the course of the visit.

Mr Gilmore said Turkey was an important, strategic link between Europe and the Asian economies of the region and presented compelling growth opportunities for Irish companies. "This visit is about helping them tap that potential."