Cantillon: Philanthropy proposals can miss mark
Frank Flannery (centre): maybe he’s right when he says if you are going to significantly increase the amount of philanthropy, or giving, in Irish society, you have to target those who have the loot.
The issue of philanthropy brings into focus a lot of what is striking about the times we live in and, in particular, the position of the rich and powerful in the early 21st century. Recent times have seen a lot of ink used up, and a lot of hot air generated, over the position of multinationals that are super successful and super profitable and that organise their affairs so as to pay super low tax rates on their global earnings.
The same issues tend to arise with the super-rich. Many of them are oligarchs who depend for their wealth on the societies they sell their wares to/own their assets in; but they have flown the nest, so to speak, when it comes to the issue of tax obligations.
In much the way US technology companies can design products in California that are sold out of Ireland into markets around the globe, with the bulk of their taxable profits ending up in no-tax locations such Bermuda, so too can super rich business figures whiz around the world making money while being resident for tax reasons in places they might not visit from one year to the next. Meanwhile SMEs, sole traders, and the PAYE worker, have to cough up whatever the Government decides they should cough up.
The question is, what do you do about it? The Immigrant Investor Programme, a new regime for which came into effect yesterday, and efforts to reduce the income tax rates that would apply to foreign executives working here, show a particular inclination on the part of the Government. The concerns of the Revenue Commissioners about the effects of unfairness on the general population’s acquiescence in the tax system, lean in another direction. Maybe Frank Flannery is right when he says if you are going to significantly increase the amount of philanthropy, or giving, in Irish society, you have to target those who have the loot. He certainly has a few supporters on the Fine Gael side of the Government. But proposals such as those being made by the Forum on Philanthropy can go down badly with the population generally, and not just those of a left-leaning persuasion.