Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

There’s no “warm, fuzzy feeling” about U2′s tax affairs

Another interview with Bono and another lesson in tax management

Bono consides a response to the latest missive from the Revenue Commissioners

Fri, Sep 27, 2013, 09:45


Tax is never far from the agenda when talk turns to U2. The band’s 2006 decision to move part of their business to the Netherlands to avail of lower tax rates has followed them around ever since like one of The Edge’s old hats.

Wherever Bono goes – and he get to a lot of places as venture capitalist, activist and occasional rock star – the tax question follows him. It’s there when he goes onstage at Glastonbury and it’s there when he’s in Accra to talk about his development work in Africa.

The band have robustly defended their stance in the past and Bono attempted once again to put the matter to rest in The Observer last weekend.

As far as he’s concerned, availing of tax competiveness is part and part of Irish economic philosophy. “Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty”, Bono claimed in the interview, “tax competitiveness is why Ireland has stayed afloat.”

Bono and U2 are not the only wealthy Irishmen who have smartly moved in and out of the Irish tax-net when it suits their business. Remember that they still pay tax here and probably a lot of it.

However, unlike other wealthy Irish citizens taking such legitimate tax decisions, Bono has consistently called on the government to do more to help developing nations. That he is doing so while at the same time removing cash from the Irish tax coffers is what annoys people.

In a recent TV interview with Gay Byrne, Bono talked about how people need to get over any “warm, fuzzy feeling” they might have about the band. They’re a business, he insisted.

But Bono is also in the business of being in a band and an activist as well as being a capitalist. He shouldn’t be surprised then that the tax issue refuses to go away. Like Larry Mullen, it will always be with him.