Mary McAleese and Fontaines D.C. among beneficiaries of artists’ tax exemption

Scheme allows artists to earn up to € 50,000 a year on creative work free of tax

Former Irish president Mary McAleese, rock band Fontaines D.C. and actor Domhnall Gleeson were among the writers, musicians and artists awarded tax exemptions from the Revenue in the first nine months of the year.

The aim of the Artists’ Exemption scheme is to encourage creative endeavours, and it allows income from works of “cultural or artistic merit” to be earned free of income tax for the year in which the claim is made.

Ms McAleese served as the eighth president of Ireland from November 1997 to November 2011 and received the exemption for her memoir, Here's the Story, published in September.

The five members of Dublin rock band Fontaines D.C. – Grian Chatten, Carlos O'Connell, Conor Curley, Conor Deegan and Thomas Coll – received the exemption for composing their debut album, Dogrel.


Brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson, sons of renowned Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, along with writing partner Michael Moloney, also qualified for their writing work on Frank of Ireland, a co-production between Channel 4 and Amazon. The release date for the comedy, filmed in Dublin and Belfast, has yet to be announced.

Under the scheme, writers, playwrights, composers, painters and sculptors can apply for an exemption from income tax (not PRSI or USC) on earnings from an approved work for one year of up to €50,000. The most that can be saved in tax in one year through the scheme is €20,000.

However, not all artists will earn enough in a year to benefit from the full tax exemption. Figures from the Revenue show that the scheme cost €10 million in 2018 (most recent year available) with 3,270 successful claimants, indicating the cost to the State of each claim was €3,058 on average.

Former Irish and Leinster rugby player and Irish Times columnist Gordon D'Arcy was also awarded the exemption for his children's book, Gordon's Game, co-written with Paul Howard.

A number of writers of biographies also made the grade. Matt Cooper received the exemption for a biography of rugby player Jamie Heaslip, entitled Jamie Heaslip: All In, while Dion Fanning received the exemption for his portrayal of former professional footballer and soccer pundit Richie Sadlier, in Recovering.

Naomi Linehan, ghost writer of a memoir by CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan, was also approved for the exemption. The book, Overcoming, was voted the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2019.

Niamh Fitzpatrick's personal story of loss and grief, Tell Me The Truth About Loss, received the exemption. It reveals how she coped with the death of her sister, Dara Fitzpatrick, in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash in 2017.

Irish Times journalist Patrick Freyne also made the exemptions list for his books of essays, Ok, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea, published earlier this year.

Irish short story writer and novelist Mary Costello belatedly received approval for two of her books, Academy Street, published in 2015, and The China Factory, first published in 2012.

Catherine Fegan qualified for the exemption for her true crime story, The Murder of Mr Moonlight.

Comedian Deirdre O’Kane was approved for the exemption for her work on The Deirdre O’ Kane Show, a live show, some of which had to be cancelled earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sorcha Ní Chéide was awarded the exemption for her work on TG4 soap Ros na Rún, while Calum Fenton, a visual artist working primarily with video and mixed media installations, also qualified for the exemption.

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan is a writer specialising in personal finance and is the Home & Design Editor of The Irish Times