Four executives save €1m each or more in tax – Revenue
Contentious State initiative to attract senior personnel allows for 30% relief on income
A further 14 individuals in 2016 earned between €1m and €3m, giving them annual tax reliefs of almost €300,000 to €900,000.
A special Government incentive to attract highly skilled executives to Ireland resulted in four individuals saving €1 million each or more in their tax bills in 2016, according to Revenue figures.
The Special Assignee Relief Programme (Sarp) was introduced by then minister for finance Michael Noonan in 2012 as a means of attracting senior executives to Ireland.
The scheme was designed to allow multinationals relocate individuals from abroad to Ireland. It provided a relief of 30 per cent of income between €75,000 and €500,000. Therefore an executive earning €500,000 would get a relief of €127,500. By 2014, some 300 employees availed of this measure.
However, the upper earning ceiling was abolished for the years between 2015 and 2020 making all incomeabove €75,000 eligible for this exemption. There was a sharp escalation in the number availing of the scheme in 2015 (586) and in 2016 (793).
The cost of tax foregone to the exchequer also increased dramatically, trebling from € 5.9 million in 2014 to €18 million in 2016.
Four of the 793 individuals who availed of the relief in 2016 had an annual salary between €3 million to €10 million. With a 30 per cent relief on their income, their tax bills were each reduced by close to €1 million in that year. All four will be entitled to similar reliefs in all five years to 2020.
That would mean a saving of about €5 million each if they continue to make Sarp returns in each year between 2016 and 2020. For the individual earning €10 million per annum, the saving over five years could be closer to €15 million. USC, however, was applied on all income.
A further 14 individuals in 2016 earned between €1 million and €3 million, giving them annual tax reliefs of almost €300,000 to €900,000.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe reduced the cap to €1 million in the last Finance Act, because of concerns over equity. He is reviewing the scheme in this budget cycle.
The figures were disclosed at a meeting of the budgetary oversight committee on Wednesday during a discussion on the budget with the Irish Tax Institute.
Anne Gunnell of the institute said the incentive should be retained beyond 2020 and that it should be extended.
She said it had been “a critical element of our foreign direct investment offering over the last seven years”.
She said other countries had similar schemes and were competing for UK business post-Brexit.
“We believe Sarp should be retained and extended beyond 2020,” she said.
Dún Laoghaire People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrettraised the issue of tax foregone and said it was unbelievable.
Ms Gunnell agreed there was an “inherent inequity in all tax” but said skilled people might not otherwise come to Ireland.
Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said there was absolutely no justification for the scheme.