Labour proposes wealthy artists should pay tax

 

The Labour Party has suggested that authors, artists and musicians who earn more than €100,000 each year should lose the tax-free status on their artistic income.

In the wake of new figures released by the Revenue Commissioners detailing the names of around 1,500 people who benefited from the scheme between 1998 and 2001, Labour said the Government review of the scheme announced last year should try to identify how many consistent high-income earners were benefiting.

Labour Party finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said the review would have to focus on identifying the income bands the people qualifying for the scheme were included in.

She said would not like "to make a blanket judgment" on the scheme in advance of the review, but she hoped it would identify the numbers who consistently earned significant six-figure sums free of tax.

"I don't see an argument as to why they should not be making tax contributions to the State,"Ms Burton said.

"And maybe that money should be redirected towards struggling artists."

Yesterday's list, published under the Freedom of Information Act, included the names of most authors, artists and musicians who came to prominence in the late 1990s.

Before yesterday's list was released the Revenue Commissioners had already published the names of people who had qualified for the scheme for the first time since January 2002. Yesterday's list named the people who qualified for the scheme for the first time between 1998 and 2001.

People who qualified for the scheme before this period, but who continued to earn tax-free income from similar work during the period, are not included on the list.

The scheme provides tax-free status on income from original works considered to be of creative, artistic or cultural merit. To qualify, a sample or copy of work must be submitted to the Revenue Commissioners. The scheme costs an estimated €35 million a year in lost taxation revenue. It was introduced in 1969 by the then minister for finance Charles Haughey. It led to a number of writers and singers moving to Ireland for periods of time, including thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, members of the band Def Leppard and the singer Lisa Stansfield.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Revenue Commissioners said that the decision to release the latest information, which followed a request from the Ireland on Sunday newspaper, was based on a belief that the release of the names was in the public interest in ensuring openness and transparency. He said there were no plans, however, to release the names of those who qualified for the scheme before 1998.

In last December's budget, the Minister for Finance Brian Cowen said the scheme would be one of a number of tax-incentive schemes that would be reviewed in 2005 by independent consultants. That review has yet to get under way.