Thursday 14 November 2019

The Punt: Multinationals have no tax fear

Former Goldman Sachs Group chairman Stephen Friedman
Former Goldman Sachs Group chairman Stephen Friedman

AS concerns over Ireland's corporate tax structures continue to simmer, it appears that any fears amongst multinationals that they will become pariahs if they now decide to shift their bases to this country appear to be largely unfounded.

Australian shareholder services firm Computershare, which also has operations in Ireland, the UK, US and Europe, has told its own investors it has seen evidence of "further momentum in US and other foreign companies re-incorporating in Ireland".

A number of takeovers are seeing new HQs making for Irish shores. US firm Perrigo re-incorporated its business in Ireland after its €6.3bn takeover last year of Elan.

When the Chiquita merger with Fyffes is completed later this year, the new entity that emerges will also be based in Ireland. Australia's 'The Age' newspaper carried a comment yesterday from John Passant, from the school of political science at the Australian National University.

Mr Passant said Computershare's comment on Ireland suggests US multinationals remain completely unconcerned that they will be targeted for lowering their tax bills by moving their domicile.

"US companies are doing this on the hard-nosed basis that any [regulatory] changes that will be made won't have an impact on their ability to avoid tax," he said.


New approach for the IDA?

And we thought it just might have something to do with our very attractive corporate tax regime. Perhaps we were wrong.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May has injected herself into the debate about Yahoo's decision to move its European operations to Dublin.

Thanks to Ms May's intervention, there is speculation that the global tech company made the decision to avoid potential snooping by British intelligence agencies.

'The Guardian' recently carried a story about how Ms May summoned the internet giant for an urgent meeting to "raise security concerns".

The paper noted that by coming to Dublin, Yahoo cannot be forced to hand over information demanded by Scotland Yard and the intelligence agencies by warrants issued under the UK's controversial anti-terror laws.

And it seems that security officials are concerned that Ireland doesn't have the same level of tough terrorist laws, fearing that this could affect investigations by Scotland Yard.

A snoop-free environment? Perhaps the IDA should start a marketing campaign.


Boardroom to the battlefield

Is that Peter Sutherland skulking among the blood-thirsty crew of RTE's 'The Vikings'? Unlikely. The former European Commissioner, Attorney General and current chairman of Goldman Sachs International is a serious fellow with a string of altruistic and professional interests to keep him busy. But if he did turn up as an extra in an epic TV series made here in Ireland, he'd be in pretty good company.

Because it seems that's exactly what former Goldman Sachs Group chairman Stephen Friedman has been up to.

Eagle-eyed author and ex-investment banker William Cohan spotted Mr Friedman apparently doing a turn as an anonymous peasant in a recent episode of 'Game of Thrones', a TV fantasy series shot partly in Northern Ireland.

Mr Friedman is a pretty serious man himself. He stood down as chairman of Goldman Sachs in 1994 after almost three decades with the firm and actually stayed on as a director of the global behemoth until last year. The ex-Goldman chief's son is a producer on the show, which presumably explains his TV cameo.

But how the series – which depicts feuding between vicious and even psychotic rivals for control over a fantasy kingdom – compared to Mr Friedman's time on Wall Street has yet to be revealed.

Irish Independent

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