Thursday 23 May 2019

A taxing time for 'Richie Ruin'

Fergus Black

Affluent warn of dire consequences from proposed wealth tax

THE country saw "red" in 1974 after Finance Minister Richie Ryan proposed a new wealth tax as part of a major tax reform package.

His proposals sparked a nationwide hue and cry as politicians, farmers, prominent businessmen and members of the public inundated the Government with a flurry of letters of protest and dire warnings of a flight from the land and the sell-off of farms and estates.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton, who was then parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Education, voiced his grave concerns about the tax proposal in a letter to Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in May, 1974.

"It is my opinion the wealth tax proposal has fundamentally shaken the confidence of our supporters to such a degree that they are unlikely to be satisfied with anything less than withdrawal of the wealth tax."

Famed racehorse trainer Vincent O'Brien voiced his "grave concern" about the capital tax proposals and wrote to the Taoiseach that they would have a detrimental effect on the bloodstock industry.

Paddy McGrath, chairman and managing director of the Hospitals' Trust which operated the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes, also expressed concern that Sweepstake prizes of more than £15,000 (?19,050) would be chargeable to Capital Gains Tax.

Prominent businessman John A Mulcahy told the Taoiseach that the real threat in the proposed white paper was the wealth tax. The very real consequence of the policy could only be to "denude the nation" of foreign investment and native capital, he warned.

Writing from New York, Mr Mulcahy, a founder member of the Ireland-US Council for Commerce and Industry as well as the American Irish Foundation, said he was working diligently at that time with the Union Carbide Corporation on a proposal for a $50m plant in Ireland which would initially employ 300 and eventually 800 people.

In his desire to promote Ireland's welfare, he had transferred and invested nearly £15m and had paid his full share of taxes on this amount. If the tax became law he would be sadly forced to "leave my native land and liquidate my holdings as soon as possible and transfer it all back to the United States where I will not be subject to such tax," he wrote.

Other objectors to the proposed tax included estate owner Ambrose Congreve of Mount Congreve Estate in Waterford, the Confederation of Irish Industry, the well-known Williams Group in Tullamore, equestrian figure Iris Kellet and the Irish Cattle Traders' and Stockowners' Association.

Turf Club senior steward Major Victor McCalmont warned of "dire results" should the provisions on taxation be implemented.

He feared for the departure of "some of Ireland's leading trainers who might well feel there was little to keep them here."

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