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Cantillon: Enda Kenny lets loose over commission tax examination

Hardly misleading to suggest EU Commission is looking at 300 other tax rulings

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said an Irish Times report on the European Commission’s examination of corporate tax files here was “loose talk”. Photograph: Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had a go at The Irish Times on Friday saying that a report on the European Commission’s examination of corporate tax files here was “loose talk” which was damaging to the country.

The report that annoyed Mr Kenny so much had stated that it was understood the commission was in possession of 300 other tax rulings made by the Irish Revenue. The commission is looking at these files as part of a wider sweep of tax ruling across Europe.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told The Irish Times she had not ruled out taking action in further cases against Ireland, a point which Mr Kenny also noted. Hard to see where the “loose” talk is here.

Newspapers are never slow to dish it out to politicians, so some return fire is par for the course. But the Department of Finance did give the tax rulings to the commission, relating to the years 2010 to 2012.

Hardly misleading

And it is hardly misleading to suggest that the commission is looking at them and has not ruled out further action.

What has really damaged the State is that Ireland has been caught offside in a big international tax row which the Government did not see coming.

Right up to the last minute, Dublin believed the final bill it would be asked to collect from Apple would be a fraction of what it turned out to be. This meant that the whole system was completely unprepared to deal with the fallout of the judgment.

All the indications are that the commission’s ruling was an intensely political act and that Ireland was effectively caught in the middle. But caught we are, and we have to deal with it.

The old lines trotted out by the Government that the corporate tax system here is open and transparent are not enough. We need a sophisticated response to this which is not yet in evidence.

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