Business Irish

Friday 19 September 2014

Top US politician launches assault on Irish tax laws

Governor of California gets shirty in Enda's face

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

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Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore with the Governor of California Jerry Brown at an event in Dublin last year
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore with the Governor of California Jerry Brown at an event in Dublin last year

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and Silicon Valley's best young whizz kids were left embarrassed as California Governor Jerry Brown took a sledgehammer to the Irish tax laws that lure US corporations here.

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The Enterprise Ireland event in San Francisco was held to celebrate Irish-American links and the new wave of Irish entrepreneurs heading to the west coast in search of a fortune in new technologies.

Instead there was barely concealed hostility as California's most senior politician gave a withering attack on our tax system and the US corporations who benefit.

He said his state of California would become an "independent country" if it had the same tax regime as Ireland.

It was one of several jibes about Irish taxation made after Taoiseach Mr Kenny had heralded the relationship between Ireland and the US.

And Mr Brown said that Apple was now an "Irish company" that benefited from what he described as "creative accounting".

"I don't know how you got to have Apple to have so much of their business in Ireland, we thought they were a Californian company, when you look at their tax returns they're really an Irish company... it's called creative accounting," Governor Brown said.

The no-holds barred assault on fiscal policy caused deep unease among the Irish contingent in the boardroom.

His speech was met with gasps after he remarked about the relationship between Ireland and Britain.

After stating that both the Irish and Californians swim "against the stream", he added: "The Irish have had to live next door to the English for all these centuries."

Governor Brown then alluded to the number of Irish barmen working on the very street where he was making his controversial remarks.

"We have a lot of your countrymen that come to San Francisco, they run a lot of establishments here, on Geary Street you see a number of them," he said, to polite laughter. But it was his continued focus on Irish tax laws that raised most eyebrows, even among the officials from the Government, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

The event – designed to assist Irish start-up firms seeking to break into the US market – was also attended by Irish ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson, several IDA officials including chief executive Barry O'Leary and dozens of Irish business people.

Governor Brown's outspoken remarks come as the European Commission is poised to launch a formal probe into allegations that the Revenue Commissioners have offered special deals to multi-national companies.

The probe, which may begin as early as Wednesday, could result in businesses being asked to repay money.

When asked about the matter during his visit to Silicon Valley, Mr Kenny said: "Clearly when the Commission decide to make a statement on the matter, Ireland will react to it.

"We believe our legislation is robust, that the application of that legislation is ethical and obviously we will be prepared to defend that very strongly in the event of any further statement or requirement from the European Commission."

In his own speech at the Enterprise Ireland event on Saturday, Mr Kenny spoke about his aims for Ireland to become "the greatest small nation on Earth". He added that Dublin was "becoming a magnetic attraction for young people from all over the world".

The Taoiseach said these young people were "changing the frontiers up ahead".

Sunday Independent

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