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Thursday 2 October 2014

Obama blasts US firms for 'magically becoming Irish' in controversial tax switches

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about education and the economy while at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in California, July 24, 2014.        REUTERS/Larry Downing   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about education and the economy while at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in California, July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)
The President Barack Obama Visitor Centre in Moneygall.
Moneygall, Offaly. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

US President Barack Obama has blasted American multinationals that move to Ireland to cut their tax bill.

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In his toughest comments yet on the subject, he accused big US corporations of trying to play “the system” by “magically becoming Irish” through so-called tax inversion deals.

Barack Obama enjoys a pint in Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall

“I don't care if it's legal, it's wrong,” Mr Obama said. “It sticks you for the tab to make up for what they're stashing offshore.”

There has been a raft of such deals in recent months which have seen big American companies become “Irish” for tax purposes through buying smaller firms registered here. The same trend is happening in the UK and Switzerland.

Fears America is losing out on taxes have made the deals controversial.

Last night Mr Obama singled Ireland out – something that is certain to set off alarm bells in government circles here.

“If you are basically still an American company but you simply change your mailing address in order to avoid paying taxes then you are |really not doing right by the country and its people,” he said in an |interview with CNBC before he |spoke at a technical college in Los Angeles.

Bono greets Michelle Obama in Finnegan's pub, Dalkey
Bono greets Michelle Obama in Finnegan's pub, Dalkey
Michelle Obama arrives for lunch at Finnegans pub in Dalkey with Bono and Ali Hewson.
Michelle Obama arrives for lunch at Finnegans pub in Dalkey with Bono and Ali Hewson.
A man power-washes the pavement in front of the Gaiety Theatre in preparation for US First Lady Michelle Obama attendance at a performance of Riverdance in Dublin
A man power-washes the pavement in front of the Gaiety Theatre in preparation for US First Lady Michelle Obama attendance at a performance of Riverdance in Dublin

 “If you simply acquire a company in Ireland or some other country to take advantage of the low tax rate, you start saying we are now magically an Irish company despite the fact that you may only have a hundred employees there and you've got 10,000 in the United States; you are just gaming the system. You are an American company, you continue to benefit in all kinds of ways from being an American company,” he said.

Recent multi-billion euro deals by US firms for smaller Irish companies show the scale of activity.

In the first six months of this year it helped drive the value of Irish mergers to a record €65bn.

Ali, Bono and their two sons Elijah (who appears to have brought gifts) and John Abraham arrive to meet the Obamas.
Ali, Bono and their two sons Elijah (who appears to have brought gifts) and John Abraham arrive to meet the Obamas.
Invite Michelle and the kids to a traditional Irish pub lunch with, Ali and the boys – no big deal, right Bono? (PA/PA)
Invite Michelle and the kids to a traditional Irish pub lunch with, Ali and the boys – no big deal, right Bono? (PA/PA)
After their tour of Glendalough the Obamas were ready no doubt hungry and ready for a spot of lunch with Bono.
After their tour of Glendalough the Obamas were ready no doubt hungry and ready for a spot of lunch with Bono.

Critics say such deals have little to do with what is really happening in the Irish economy.

They are about allowing corporations to be taxed at Ireland's |12.5pc rate rather than America's 35pc on international earnings, they claim.

The same trend is being seen in the UK and Switzerland, prompting fears the US is losing vital tax revenues.

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