McManus: I didn't leave to avoid taxes
Published 20/11/2011 | 05:00
Millionaire businessman JP McManus yesterday angrily defended his right to live abroad, saying he never left the country to avoid paying tax.
"I didn't leave this country for tax purposes, I left because I wanted to set up a business abroad. I paid my taxes before I left the country in full. I didn't leave to avoid paying tax or any future tax or anything like that," the international businessman said yesterday.
With emotion clearly showing while he spoke, Mr McManus told the Sunday Independent: "If I was someone who set up a business abroad and it didn't go so well I would be considered an emigrant, if it does do well I'm an exile. Now what do they want?"
Speaking at an award ceremony at the University of Limerick, which was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr McManus, 60, who is now a tax resident of Switzerland, reacted strongly to being asked yesterday about his contribution to Ireland during the worst recession in its history.
Mr McManus, who has contributed €32m in support of various third-level initiatives said he considered himself Irish despite his non-resident status.
"I'm proud to be Irish. I'm doing the country more good by being abroad earning a few quid if I bring it back and decide to spend it whatever way I like, at least I am improving the economy," he said.
"Do they not want you to come back and try and support the local economy, try to earn some money abroad and then put it in the local economy. That's what I like to do," he added.
Mr McManus made it clear he was not impressed with being asked questions about his tax status on a day when his contribution to education was being celebrated.
Moments before, while he was standing beside Mr McManus, Mr Kenny was asked should tax exiles be forced to pay more, given that the country is on its knees.
Mr Kenny said no government can dictate where people live and pay their taxes.
"You have free movement of people within the EU. People pay their taxes where they earn them. I have long spoken about people's patriotism in this regard. You can't dictate where people live and there are arrangements for those who don't live here."
It was revealed yesterday that only 10 of the 'Super-Rich' Irish tax exiles have paid the Domicile Levy introduced as a form of "patriotic tax" by the late finance minister Brian Lenihan. When the deadline for returns expired last week the total tax take from the scheme amounted to just €1.48m -- an average payment of €147,000 each.
Currently there are 5,800 Irish people who declare themselves non-resident for tax purposes, and the Revenue Commissioners estimate that 440 fit into the "super rich bracket".
"It beggars believe that this tax has only netted the equivalent of the combined salaries of 40 teachers," said Labour TD Gerard Nash. "It is sickening to see vastly wealthy tax exiles turning up at ego boosting charity events dispensing their largesse like colonial overseers."