Tuesday 25 July 2017

Ahern blasted over tax exemption

Haughey-adviser Cronin launches attack on former Taoiseach over artistic merit of his autobiography

Willie Kealy

Willie Kealy

Charlie Haughey's artistic adviser has launched a blistering attack on tax-free author Bertie Ahern -- the man Mr Haughey described as the "most cunning, the most devious of them all".

Internationally respected author Anthony Cronin has claimed the artist exemption scheme is being brought into disrepute by allowing ghosted autobiographies -- such as that of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern -- to qualify.

Mr Cronin described Mr Ahern's The Autobiography as a self-justifying book, "like all political autobiographies". But he added that he had not read it "and I hope to go to my grave without reading it".

The author and poet asked a meeting of artistic body Aosdana last week to urge the Arts Council to get on with the work on preparing new guidelines for the Revenue Commissioners which would help restrict tax exemption to works of genuine artistic merit.

Mr Cronin, who was a long-time friend of Mr Haughey and advised him on setting up the artists exemption scheme, said that the original legislation envisaged artistic merit and cultural value as the only criteria to qualify.

"Now, due to sociology I suppose, it seems to mean any group of people who have anything in common with anything, including the Irish nation, and this brings in economists, politicians and all sorts," he said.

Mr Cronin said that many of the works which were now qualifying for exemption were "rubbish," and he said Mr Ahern's recent autobiography, written by academic, Richard Aldous, was "an example of how ridiculous the whole thing has become".

Others who availed of the scheme, which allows them to earn up to €125,000 tax free, were the former Finance Minister Ruairi Quinn who was initially refused but subsequently got the tax-free perk on appeal, the broadcaster Gerry Ryan and the journalist Kevin Rafter for ghost-writing This is Charlie Bird about the life of the RTE broadcaster.

Mr Cronin said that when people read in the media that some artists were "tax exempt" they could get the wrong impression.

"They read about Bono who makes a lot of money, being tax exempt and they think that artists don't have to pay any tax at all. But the exemption is only for an approved qualifying work. In Bono's case he might qualify for writing a piece of music, but not for every time he performs it. All this confusion could cause public resentment against genuine artists and could eventually lead to the exemption legislation being scrapped."

Mr Cronin added he was in favour of the €125,000 cap introduced by Brian Cowen when he was Finance Minister. "Many genuine artists are so far away from ever reaching that cap, that it does not affect them," he said.

Mr Cronin got the unanimous backing of the meeting of Aosdana for his proposal that the Arts Council should provide a new set of guidelines to the Revenue Commissioners on what should qualify for the artistic exemption.

Sunday Independent

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