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Friday 24 May 2019

€200m lost in gig taxes

State admits failing to levy visiting performers

Sam Smyth

As much as €200m in taxes from international artists appearing in concerts and festivals has been lost to the Exchequer after successive governments failed to implement a double taxation treaty.

Ireland is the only country not to demand tax from visiting rock bands and performers and this can lead to a double loss to the Irish exchequer when the performers are British.

Top Irish bands cannot understand why they pay taxes when touring abroad but the Government does not levy taxes on international artists when they appear in Ireland.

U2 manager Paul McGuinness said the retention tax was levied on touring artists in every other country and Louis Walsh, manager of Boyzone and Westlife, believes it has cost the Exchequer "hundreds of millions". A spokesman for the Department of Finance admitted last night they had not implemented a double taxation treaty on visiting artists that became law 33 years ago.

The spokesman added that the Government had no plans to implement the retention tax for visiting artists in next week's supplementary Budget.

Recent concerts by Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen grossed around €12m and top international acts will command millions in fees for appearing at festivals like Oxegen and Electric Picnic.

As U2 prepare for their international tour, manager Paul McGuinness said: "It is normal (for touring bands) to pay tax in every other country in the world."

Nothing

Louis Walsh was a member of the Artiste Management and Agents Association (AMAA) who commissioned a pre-budget submission for then Finance Minister Albert Reynolds in 1979.

Seamus Casey, manager of Joe Dolan and the Drifters at the time, was part of a delegation that met Mr Reynolds.

"Albert said he would look into it," Mr Casey said, "and that was the end of it, nothing was ever done about it."

Another delegation from the AMAA met Bertie Ahern when he was Finance Minister in 1992 to make the same case for the retention tax for visiting artists but again nothing was done.

One experienced promoter said in recent years that the total fees paid to international bands and artists visiting Ireland had grown to some €75m a year.

And after their expenses were paid, if they had to pay the same scale of tax here as they did in the UK, the Irish Exchequer would have benefited by as much as €200m over 15 years.

When Irish bands and performers play in the UK they are taxed by the UK Inland Revenue on their fees under Article 16 of the Ireland/UK Double Taxation Treaty 1976.

They can pay up to 25pc of their fees in the UK and under the treaty some of the tax may be repayable by the Irish Revenue, which means that Ireland loses and the UK benefits.

But because Ireland has not implemented the relevant legislation, foreign performers do not pay similar taxes here -- and this can mean a double loss for the Irish exchequer.

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