New IDA boss must flash the lights on corporate tax law exploitation

Martin Shanahan has a brief to sharpen Ireland’s offering to investors aside from as a tax avoidance conduit

New IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan: drunks are abusing a good thing

New IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan: drunks are abusing a good thing


When the new IDA chief executive-designate, Martin Shanahan, worked for the tourism training body Cert back in 2003, he introduced a course to teach bar staff how to say no to drunks. He said at the time it wasn’t about discouraging the drinking of alcohol, but about consuming it in moderation.

He should apply the same thinking to his new role at the IDA when dealing with the scores of mainly US multinationals located in Ireland. They and the jobs they bring are as welcome here as a rich punter in a struggling country pub. But some of them are as drunk as lords on this country’s lenient corporate tax regime. As with actual drunks, they have started to abuse a good thing.

It is a truism that Ireland has many advantages for foreign investors outside of its corporate tax regime. Despite much hand wringing that our relatively small universities are not among the top ranked globally, Ireland has a good education system. Our enthusiastic graduates speak English, and fun cities such as Dublin attract scores of other language speakers. Ireland is business friendly, strategically located for US companies, and stable.

A corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent to top it all off – one of the lowest in Europe – should be enough to keep foreign investors happy.

It is to the detriment of this country’s international reputation that Ireland is now viewed as some sort of predatory tax haven. This is because multinationals such as Apple and Google insist on using Ireland as a fiscal rat-run to actual tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, exploiting loopholes in how our tax laws interact with those of the US.

The international pressure on Ireland to drag the tax drunks from the bar is becoming too much for this country to bear. The appointment of Mr Shanahan, with a brief to sharpen Ireland’s offering to investors aside from as a tax avoidance conduit, is a welcome step towards formulating plan B.

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