Business Irish

Tuesday 26 September 2017

'Nobody believes Ireland is not a tax haven' - UN official

UN special rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Professor Philip Alston
UN special rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Professor Philip Alston
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

A UNITED Nations official has launched a scathing attack on Ireland over its corporation tax regime.

Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, accused the country of supplementing the 12.5pc rate with a raft of schemes that appear designed to allow tax avoidance by big companies in return for a "pittance in reward".

And he said the cost to developing countries of the move has been immense.

Mr Alston said few people outside of Ireland believe the official denials that the country is a tax haven.

"The 12.5pc Corporate Tax rate and the willingness of Ireland to countenance a wide array of special arrangements designed to attract inward investment and make itself an attractive financial hub have become almost a defining characteristic of the society," Mr Alston told a Dublin conference organised by Christian Aid.

"The shamrock now has the euro and the dollar carefully embedded within it, and the leprechaun of old has been replaced by the Finance Department official ever ready to do what it takes."

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council and undertakes various tasks, including research and analysis, country visits and making contact with governments concerning alleged human rights violations of people living in extreme poverty.

Mr Alston was appointed to the role in June of last year. He is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and has previously taught at various law schools around the world.

In his speech, Mr Alston criticised the so-called Double Irish, which the Government shut down in Budget 2015.

"The Irish authorities knew exactly what was going on, long before the international community finally blew the whistle.

"But there was no acknowledgement and there really still is not of the fact that this was a deliberate policy decision to extract a tiny amount of tax from huge multinational corporations at a huge cost to the international system," he said.

And he added there was a risk that the proposed Knowledge Development Box, a scheme to give tax breaks to some companies using patents, could end up allowing big companies to "continue effectively laundering their profits through Ireland."

He said few believed Ireland when it says it is not a tax haven.

"When lists of tax havens are drawn up, Ireland is always prominently among them," said Mr Alston.

Irish Independent

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