US firms toast Irish tax regime in tongue-in-cheek ads

‘On behalf of the people of Ireland, I’d like to thank congress for failing to reform your tax code’

A group of US businesses are running a series of Irish-themed ads at the Republican national convention to lobby for a reduction in the US corporate tax rate. Video: The Rate Coalition

 

A group of American businesses are literally toasting Ireland’s low corporate tax rate in a series of online ads aimed at putting pressure on the US congress to reduce its rate.

The tongue-in-cheek ads show an Irish man, played by an American actor, raising a glass in a busy bar to congress’s failure to reform the US tax code.

Created by a lobby group called The RATE Coalition, the ads will run in hotels in Cleveland next week during the US Republican convention when party insiders descend on Ohio to vote on Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

The campaign, dubbed “From Ireland With Love,” will continue from July 25th to 28th during the Democratic convention in Philadelphia when Hillary Clinton is set to be confirmed as the party’s nominee in November’s election.

The ads are running at a time when the Irish tax regime is the subject of global ridicule for reporting a 26 per cent rise in economic growth in 2015 - dubbed “leprechaun economics” by economist Paul Krugman - as a result of international companies moving assets to Ireland to cut their tax bills.

The fictional Irish bar is purported to be in The Auld Dubliner with the exterior of the Temple Bar pub in Dublin shown at the start of the ad, but the campaign was in fact filmed in Washington.

“On behalf of the people of Ireland, I’d like to thank the American congress for failing to reform your tax code,” says the actor, his accent slipping occasionally.

“Your corporate tax rate is 35 per cent, the highest in the world, almost three times the Irish rate. So for creating jobs in Europe. Sláinte!”

The five ads, running between 16 seconds and 27 seconds each, are accompanied by a soundtrack of traditional Irish music.

“They say in Ireland that Guinness is good for you,” says the character in another ad in what sounds like a Dublin accent.

“They also say in Ireland that America’s shockingly high corporate tax rate is good for the Irish economy. Keep it up America! Sláinte!

He says in another: “There are two kinds of people: the Irish and those who wish they were. You could say the same thing about the Irish corporate tax rate. Our low corporate rate is the envy of the world. America’s corporate rate? Not so much. Sláinte!”

Drawing attention to the difference between the US corporate rate of 35 per cent and the Irish rate of 12.5 per cent, the RATE Coalition - standing for “Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably” - wants to make corporate tax reform a priority for the newly elected president and congress in 2017.

The companies funding the ad include airline Boeing, cigarette maker Altria, telecoms company Verizon and the National Retail Federation.

The campaign, produced by Washington-based lobby firm QGA Public Affairs, focuses on the loss of US investment and jobs due to the high corporate tax rate, so-called corporate inversions where American companies relocate their headquarters to Ireland and painting the US as being behind the times.

“The ads are aimed at members of Congress and political types attending the conventions. Any time you log onto the internet at one of the hotels, you are going to see it,” said John Feehery, an executive at QGA and a former spokesman for US House of Representatives speaker Dennis Hastert.

“I don’t think think it diminishes the Irish who have done a good job on corporate tax. It makes fun of Americans for not doing the same.”

The Obama administration has cracked down on inversions - a practice condemned by President Barack Obama as allowing US companies to become “magically” Irish - introducing new rules that have scuppered mega-deals.

“There’s an old Irish proverb that if a secret is known by more than three people, it is no longer a secret,” says the actor in another ad.

“Ireland’s low corporate tax rate is no secret to the business community and that’s why American businesses are moving here to Ireland. You can thank your congress for that!” he says, raising a pint of stout.

One of the ads makes reference to the election of Mary Robinson as Ireland’s first female president drawing the comparison with the US election in which Mrs Clinton is the first female presidential nominee from a major party.

“You know Ireland elected our first female president in 1990. Twenty five years later it looks like the US might finally be catching up,” says the Irish character.

“There are lots of ways Ireland leads America. Look at America’s broken tax code and your shockingly high corporate tax rate. At three times the Irish rate you just can’t compete with us and that’s fine by me!” he says, winking at a red-headed girl.