Saturday 18 November 2017

New loophole to replace the 'Double Irish' tax strategy

Glanbia
Glanbia
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Another sophisticated loophole in the tax system means the removal of the "Double Irish" tax-avoidance strategy won't actually have any real impact for US firms in Ireland seeking to lower their tax bills.

An influential US tax journal has found that the Irish subsidiaries of US companies can easily opt to use another loophole, known as the "check the box" rule, to enjoy the same tax benefits created by the Double Irish.

The findings, reported in the National Tax Journal, pour cold water on hopes that the abolition of the Double Irish in Budget 2015 will clamp down on multinational tax avoidance and restore the reputational damage repeated corporate tax scandals have caused Ireland.

Using the "check the box" rule, Irish subsidiaries of US companies can avoid running foul of the "Double Irish" ban by simply by moving their holding company from non-EU tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to EU tax haven Malta.

They can then funnel royalties through this Maltese company and enjoy Malta's very low rate of tax, even if only a minor "management and control" part of the business is performed in Malta.

The "check the box" rule is a result of both US tax code and Ireland and Malta's tax treaties. This little-known loophole might explain why there was very little reaction among US tax experts to the abolition of the Double Irish, said UCD economics professor Frank Barry.

The findings come at a time of unprecedented international scrutiny on corporate avoidance tactics used by corporations in Europe.

This week saw the release of damning documents prepared by accounting firm PwC in Luxembourg, showing the tax-avoidance strategies of a vast array of companies - including several Irish-founded corporations like Glanbia.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said more than 300 international companies had secured secret deals with Luxembourg to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence there.

Glanbia stated that the "the Group is tax compliant in all of the jurisdictions" in which it operates.

The company said "In 2013 Glanbia had an effective corporation tax rate of 17pc on worldwide earnings."

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