Ad giant WPP to quit Ireland after UK tax move
Published 25/03/2011 | 05:00
ADVERTISING group WPP plans to quit Ireland and bring its tax base back to Britain, sparking fears that this could be the first of many such moves from this country after the British government signalled on Wednesday that it would ease corporate taxation levels.
Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the group, which includes Ogilvy & Mather and JWT, said yesterday that he had been impressed by the UK government's support for business and his firm could now return to England either by the end of this year or early next.
The advertising giant paid £155.7m (€177.3m) in tax in 2009 (the first full year that it was located in Ireland for tax purposes) compared to £232.9m (€264.5m) the previous year, according to the company's 2010 annual report.
Mr Sorrell is a high-profile supporter of the Conservative government and serves on a committee created by Prime Minister David Cameron to advise on business and economic strategy.
The advertising man never appeared completely happy with the decision to move the company's domicile to Ireland in 2008, calling the decision "difficult".
Mr Sorrell said in the past that he would prefer to be registered in Britain and was willing to return there as long as the taxation changes were at least neutral for his company.
Yesterday, Mr Sorrell said he was responding to plans by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to speed up a cut in corporate tax and push ahead with changes to the taxation of profits earned overseas by UK businesses.
"They reduced the taxation on finance income for controlled foreign companies to 5.75pc, we'd thought that was going to be 6pc," he said in an interview.
"The fact they then reduced the corporate tax rate by a further percentage point than we and others thought they would makes it even better."
A spokeswoman for the publishing group UBM, which also moved its tax base to Ireland, said it was also actively considering returning to Britain.
Other companies which have moved their tax headquarters to Ireland from the UK include drugmaker Shire.
A move back to the UK would be a "cosmetic thing" and wouldn't require large changes because WPP has kept most of its operations in London, said media analyst Alex DeGroote.
WPP only employed around seven or eight people at the Dublin office in Ely Place where board meetings had to be held following the 2008 move.