Are Ireland’s high tax rates a deterrent to living here?
We asked high-earning Irish emigrants what they thought. Here’s what they had to say
Gareth Simpson: ‘For me and the other Irish people I meet, it is clear and simple: access to good quality housing, schools and healthcare are paramount. Those three issues far outweigh any counter issue with regards to tax.’
Kevin Foley: ‘Ireland has high taxes and very little to show for it other than a wasteful public service and poor social care and support. Further increases will for me create a larger disincentive to return.’
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claimed during the election campaign that well-paid emigrants would be prepared to return home and pay more taxes as a part of a “patriotic effort” to improve Ireland, and that he had met some of them in America who said they would be happy to pay 59 per cent marginal tax on income.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we couldn’t find any of them. But we did receive a very strong response from high-earning emigrants on the topic through Generation Emigration this week. For some of you, Ireland’s high income tax rates are a deterrent to living here, but for others, lifestyle and access to quality public services such as healthcare are much more important deciding factors when it comes to where in the world they live.
Here’s what some of them had to say.
Gerald Carroll (30), sales director, London
I have been based in the UK for the past five years and recently bought an apartment in Dublin with the intention to move back in the next couple of years.
Tax is definitely a factor; Ireland already has punitive rates in comparison to the UK. If these were to be increased further I don’t believe I would ever move home, which would frankly break my heart, as I couldn’t justify it. I know a number of people in the other boat, friends who would leave the country if taxes were raised.
Gareth Simpson, town planner and coffee company owner, Newcastle, Australia
I regularly read with incredulity about the notion that income tax rates prevent emigrants returning to Ireland. I left in 2006 for London to experience a big city. I didn’t do it for lack of work back home. I work in the building sector and there were excellent jobs on offer.
In 2014 I moved to Australia with my wife. At no time did I ever sit down and compare income tax rates between countries to decide whether I would live there or not. The idea that I would do so is so far removed from reality that I genuinely question what sort of planet Irish politicians, and particularly Enda Kenny, are on.
For me and the other Irish people I meet, it is clear and simple: access to good quality housing, schools and healthcare are paramount. Those three issues far outweigh any counter issue with regards to tax. Actually, those three issues can only be dealt with through progressive, well-balanced taxes which I am happy to pay.
It seems to me that politicians in Ireland have little interest in emigrants as people but rather use them as an entity to push a particular view point on the masses, ie we want lower taxes.
Hugh Dillon, veterinary surgeon, Co Kildare
I earn above €100,000 per annum. Sinn Féin and the socialist parties seem to think I should be ashamed of myself for earning such a salary. But the engine of any economy is dependent on people such as myself. I left Ireland for the UK in 1984 when tax rates were over 60 per cent, which nearly broke the country. I returned to live here in 1993, but I will leave again if the tax rates return to that. If that emigration is repeated among even some of my peers, it will be a huge loss. Even if we stayed, the incentive to work hard will be decreased, and rather than developing the business I will be reducing it in size.
I enjoy living and working in Ireland but my first loyalty is for my family and our future. I am prepared to pay more tax than lower income earners but not to be taxed so heavily so as to jeopardise my family, pension and well-being. I certainly will not want to listen to the accusations of being a fat cat, ripe for progressive taxation by Gerry Adams.
Anonymous freelance consultant, Switzerland
We pay around 40 per cent tax on our total earnings, which is way above €100,000. We think this amount of taxation is fair in return for excellent and consistent services. Although we would love to return to Ireland, the unclear tax situation would probably be the biggest deterrent for us, which is a shame as we are in our 40s with young kids who we would love to educate in Ireland’s excellent secondary education system. But until we are assured that we will not get ripped off on tax, we won’t be moving home. The patriotic line that Adams is trying to sell is a load of rubbish.
Kevin Foley (35), chief financial officer of Cable & Wireless Cayman, Cayman Islands
I am living in the Cayman Islands with my wife and two children. We would hope to return to Ireland one day, but right now our current lifestyle and quality of life would not be possible in Ireland.
My two main objectives living abroad are to build my career and save enough to live comfortably when I return. One of the key barriers to returning is the already high, one might say unfair, taxes levied in Ireland. Any move to increase these further will certainly drive a further exodus of qualified people out of the country who can have far higher quality of life elsewhere.
I don’t mind paying high taxes if there is value delivered for them. In Sweden and Norway, income and indirect taxes are comparatively high, but in return citizens receive extremely good social care and support, coupled with very good infrastructure. Ireland has high taxes and very little to show for it other than a wasteful public service and poor social care and support. Further increases will for me create a larger disincentive to return.
Liam Reilly (40), technology development manager for an investment bank, Co Kildare
I brought my family back to Ireland in 2010 and would be considered a high earner by Sinn Féin. I make a number of sacrifices to achieve my income; rarely seeing my children from Monday to Friday and often having to travel to meet commitments, but this is never mentioned in any debate. My wife and I are raising two young children and she is a stay at home mother because of the ludicrous childcare costs in Ireland. If I knew then what I know now about taxation in this country we would never have returned, and if Sinn Féin get into power I will ensure that I rectify that mistake by emigrating with my family immediately.
Mark Chearnley, oil and gas professional, Azerbaijan
I have worked throughout Europe, England, Scotland, France, Holland, Germany, Norway, and now Azerbaijan since graduating in 1991.It is stark raving mad to think we would pay a premium to live in Ireland. In fact, I would expect the opposite, a tax break for people returning with high value skills. The cost of living is high and things like cars and insurance are a large expenditure when moving country. We live in a global economy and those with the high value skills move to where the best deals are.
When I moved to Holland in 1993 I had a 35 per cent tax break (from the top down) for eight years to encourage me to stay in Holland. I was virtually tax free. This is the competition.
The extremely high tax rates in Ireland are the deciding factor in my decision not to return. The statement from Gerry Adams is not representative of the majority of us who work abroad. The high taxes are simply not reflected on the ground with quality public services like in other advanced western societies. Irish citizens cannot see where all their hard earned taxes are going, and until a cost effective and efficient public service is in place, I will not be returning to Ireland. Value for money is all we ask.