Tax breaks for political and sports memoirs criticised

 

Politicians and sports personalities who receive tax breaks for their autobiographies are undermining the credibility of the artist’s exemption scheme, the Arts Council has claimed.

Authors can earn up to €40,000 from their books without paying tax under the scheme.

The council, which advises the Revenue Commissioners on the eligibility of non-fiction books, says its advice is frequently ignored. It fears this may lead to a perception it is complicit in the granting of tax exemption status to books it does not believe should get such status.

In correspondence obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, the council has expressed misgivings about the scheme regarding non-fiction books. Alhough it has advised Revenue on dozens of books it believes are ineligible, it said “all manner of appeals have been upheld” including one for Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Author Prannie Rhatigan said her cookbook was much more than just recipes and had a folklore and heritage dimension which was recognised for a tax exemption on appeal.

Bertie Ahern

The decision to grant tax-exemption status to Bertie Ahern’s autobiography and to various sports autobiographies has highlighted perceived anomalies in the scheme.

The Revenue Commissioners’ guidelines state a work of non-fiction must be related to an arts subject to qualify for the exemption. However, in recent years hundreds of books that are not directly related to the arts have qualified.

According to the correspondence, Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan was said by Revenue to have “signed off” on new draft guidelines at the end of 2011 but they are still awaiting the approval of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

Mr Deenihan’s spokeswoman said yesterday he had signed off on nothing yet and was instead engaged in a “deliberative process”.

A Revenue Commissioners spokesman said Mr Deenihan wrote to Mr Noonan again last month regarding the issue.

A Department of Finance spokesman said Mr Noonan will be considering the guidelines, “probably next week”.