Tax breaks and shelters cost Exchequer €23bn since 2014

Report by think tank Tasc comes in wake of clampdown on property holding funds

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Department of Finance. The Tasc report says once tax breaks are introduced they tend to spread, and some remain in place long after they have served their original function

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Department of Finance. The Tasc report says once tax breaks are introduced they tend to spread, and some remain in place long after they have served their original function

 

Tax breaks, reliefs and other shelters cost the Exchequer nearly €23 billion in foregone revenue since 2014, according to a report by Tasc.

The economic think tank identified 126 separate tax expenditures, many of which it said were introduced following lobbying by special interest groups and had no clear social or economic objective.

The report noted that while all taxpayers enjoyed tax breaks, several specialised reliefs for wealthy individuals and corporations were regressive, costly and ineffective.

It also said that once tax breaks are introduced they tend to spread, and some remain in place long after they have served their original function.

Tasc’s report comes in the wake of the Government’s recent Finance Bill which closed several tax loopholes used by vulture funds holding Irish property.

The Department of Finance estimates, however, the changes to structures that hold properties, including those known as section 110 companies, will only yield an extra €50 million a year for the Exchequer. This is because many of the entities involved will already have made large gains before the clampdown.

‘Undead’ tax reliefs

Paul Sweeney, chairman of Tasc’s economists’ network and author of the report, said: “While tax breaks are usually justified in terms of economic or social policy objectives, many of them have been actually introduced following intense lobbying by special interest groups.

“All tax breaks cost the taxpayer money by reducing the income available to the State to fund infrastructure and vital public services. At worst, tax breaks that benefit business bring little or no actual benefit to their declared aim – yet they are a politically acceptable form of cash handouts to business,” he said.

“Because tax breaks shield so much of the income of the wealthy from tax they undermine the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to reduce inequality.”