Thursday 22 March 2018

U2 firm pays tax bill of just €16,500 as profits plummet

Donal O'Donovan

Bono and his bandmates are reckoned to have earned up to €900m over their long career. But a company which is part of the U2 empire, U2 Ltd, paid just €16,500 in corporation tax in Ireland last year, according to accounts just filed in Dublin.

U2 topped 'Billboard Magazine's list of the top ticket-selling acts in the world thanks to the estimated €130m made between November last year and May with a 23-date tour.

U2 Ltd is controlled by Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton through Not Us Ltd, a separate holding company.

In Ireland, where the company is registered, accounts just filed with the companies office show U2 Ltd paid corporation tax of just €16,500 last year, down from €144,000 in 2009.

The company is just one of a network of companies operated wordlwide by the band.

U2's tax affairs have been in the spotlight since the band established an operation in the Netherlands in 2006 after tax breaks for artists were slashed at home. The move incensed many, and fuelled accusations of hypocrisy because of Bono's high-profile anti-poverty campaigns.

The band has always countered by saying all of its companies are tax-compliant.

U2 Ltd's tax bill shrank because operating profits plunged to €45,622 from €575,500 the year before.

The company has seen a sharp decline in income in recent years.

Turnover of €20m back in 2007 has shrunk down to €3m last year, but it's still sitting on millions in profits and has a €4m cash pile in the bank.

U2 Ltd is Irish-registered and its principal activity is the creation, protection and licensing of intellectual property, according to the accounts.

None of the band members is listed as a director, but all four are directors of the company that owns U2 Ltd.

It's far from clear how much of the band's global income is actually recorded in the Irish accounts -- indeed financial records show that the band operates through 10 related companies in this country alone. A different set of accounts filed for Not Us Ltd show it is sitting on accumulated losses of €3.8m.

Many of the numbers listed seem low given the global success of the Dublin-based band, which has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. However U2 operates through a network of companies around the world, as well as in Ireland.

Despite that, band members are liable to pay tax on their personal income as well as at the corporate level. All four are understood to be resident in Ireland .

A spokeswoman was not available to comment on the latest figures last night.

The accounts show that nine staff shared more than €1m in pay last year.

As well as his income from the music business Bono is also a major investor in the US where he has stakes in businesses, including Elevation Partners, a giant investment firm that owns stakes in the likes of Facebook, 'Forbes Magazine', Yelp and Palm.

Not all of Bono's business ventures have been as successful as his rock career however and in 2010 Bono was named as "worst investor in America," by online publication '24/7 Wall Street' -- but that was before a huge increase in the market value of Facebook.

Irish Independent

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