Burton drags U2 into corporate tax avoidance 'scandal'
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has put the spotlight on U2's decision to move its publishing arm to the Netherlands – as part of an attack on the "scandal" of tax avoidance.
Bono and his fellow band members have come under fire from tax justice campaigners since they made the move in 2006 to pay less tax. But Ms Burton is the first cabinet minister to highlight U2's actions.
She criticised companies that were not paying their fair share of taxes to help pay for essential public services.
"That's not acceptable if a huge amount of personal wealth and corporate earnings and corporate profits are diverted in a way in which they make little effective contribution," she said.
"The well-known example, U2, moved quite an element of its activities through the Netherlands because clearly whatever the Netherlands was doing was far more attractive in tax terms for their companies and for their organisations than the quite generous arrangements that Ireland has traditionally had in the area," she said.
U2 moved their publishing arm to the Netherlands after the tax exemption for artists introduced by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was capped at €250,000.
The band had been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme. Ms Burton said that there had been reports of multi-national companies using schemes in the Netherlands to obtain effective tax rates of 0pc to 4pc.
She made her comments at the annual conference of Chartered Accountants Ireland in Dublin during a debate on the "two-tier" tax system.
Ms Burton – who is also a chartered accountant – said she was very interested to hear that the G8 summit in Fermanagh would be considering the issue of "exceptionally aggressive" tax avoidance and tax planning.
"This may inject some fresh thinking into what for citizens in many different countries has become a scandal," she said.
She also referred to Starbucks paying an extra £20m (€23.6m) in corporation taxes to the British Government, following revelations that it has paid no corporation tax in the UK in the past three years.
U2 manager Paul McGuinness has previously defended the band's decision to move its publishing arm from Ireland to the Netherlands, insisting the band is a global business and pays taxes globally.