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Call for rich tax exiles to return and 'help State'

MINISTER for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan has urged Ireland's multi-millionaire tax exiles to come home and start making more of a financial contribution to Ireland.

New figures show that one in eight of Ireland's most wealthy individuals is not resident in Ireland for tax.

Mr Deenihan, who oversees the artists' tax exemption scheme, spoke out about the need for Ireland's wealthy tax exiles to examine their commitment to the country in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the foundation of the State.

He added that the time had now come for anyone who had allegiances to the country to help "in whatever way they see possible".

"Ireland needs a lot of friends and whoever can help Ireland, in whatever way, they would be making a contribution to their country if they did so," he said.

Mr Deenihan pointed out that the question had come up for a number of people who were operating as tax exiles and he said it was a decision that they had made and "they do it within the law".

Supergroup U2 controversially made changes to their tax arrangements. The company through which U2's royalties are paid is resident for tax purposes in the Netherlands. However, the band are not tax exiles and the four members of the group pay their taxes on earnings to the Irish Exchequer.

Mr Deenihan paid tribute to the band, saying that U2 had boosted the country's standing abroad: "The one thing about U2, they are the biggest Irish band in the world and more people would probably know U2 than Ireland – so in that sense they have been good for Ireland and role models too for younger bands, younger musicians. They have been home grown in that sense."

But, he said, given the context we now find ourselves in, it was a pertinent time in the country's history for other wealthy individuals to reconsider how they were helping their country.

"Certainly at this stage, at this time in history, anyone that is committed to the country certainly should help the country in whatever way they see possible."

Almost one in eight of Ireland's richest people is a tax exile, according to the most recent figures from the Revenue Commissioners. Of the 450 "high-wealth" individuals, 54 are resident abroad for tax purposes.

Last year was the first time the tax authorities released figures relating to how many Irish tax exiles are in the super-rich league. The Revenue said that in 2011 its "high-wealth" section dealt with 450 individuals who had net assets worth more than €50m and non-residents with "substantial economic interests" in Ireland.

In 2011, U2 guitarist the Edge dismissed accusations that the band had avoided paying taxes by moving part of their business activities overseas.

In a strongly worded letter to US newspaper the Baltimore Sun, in response to a previous letter, the Edge firmly defended the band's tax affairs.

"For the record, U2 and the individual band members have a totally clean record with every jurisdiction in which they are required to pay tax and have never been, and will never be, involved in tax evasion," wrote the Edge.

Meanwhile, Mr Deenihan also confirmed that he had officially asked Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise to be an ambassador for Ireland abroad.

Revealing the details of their meeting at the Irish Film Board headquarters, Mr Deenihan said: "Tom wants to bring more movies to Ireland; it is very much on top of his list to influence a film coming to Ireland in the future. He has taken an interest in Irish film and Irish film production.

"At this moment in time we need ambassadors for Ireland like him to be speaking up the country. I mentioned it to him in the context of him being ambassador for Hollywood. So when I asked if he could also be the ambassador for Irish film – for Ireland – he seemed very interested. He said he would love to help. So we will be following up with that."

Irish Independent