Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kenny bullish on tax ahead of G8 summit

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has staunchly defended Ireland's under-fire tax system ahead of the G8 summit today where international tax evasion will be top of the agenda.

Ahead of the summit, which Mr Kenny will be attending, British prime minister David Cameron appeared to suggest Ireland was "turning a blind eye" to companies trying to avoid the payment of taxes.

Mr Cameron said he was not criticising Ireland for having a low corporation tax rate, but it was important to "expect companies to pay it".

Mr Cameron's comments are likely to be overshadowed by reports in a British newspaper today that foreign dignitaries who took part in a G20 summit in London in 2009 had their computers and phones monitored.

Mr Kenny said Ireland had "nothing to fear" from the expected tightening of rules and increased co-operation between countries on the payment of tax by multi-nationals.

And he dismissed an accusation from Northern Ireland's finance minister Sammy Wilson that Ireland was "stealing" taxes that should be going to Britain.

Turning the argument around, Mr Kenny supported Northern Ireland being allowed to reduce its corporation

tax rate and said it would make the whole island more attractive for foreign investment.

The Taoiseach will attend the G8 summit, but is not expected to face direct accusations that Ireland is a tax haven.

Mr Cameron has put tax and transparency at the heart of the G8 agenda and wants the meeting to include country-by-country reporting of where companies pay their tax.

On the eve of the summit, the Government became embroiled in a row with their Northern counterparts over corporation tax. Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said he was concerned companies were using the Republic to pay tax which he alleged should be paid in Britain.

He wanted the British government to use the bailout loans provided to Ireland to put pressure on the Government. "They should be saying to the government in the Republic, you cannot steal tax revenue from us in this way and that is in fact what has been happening," he said.

Junior finance minister Brian Hayes hit back rejecting claims Ireland was a tax haven.

And Mr Kenny played down any prospect of Ireland coming under pressure about the tax regime at the G8 summit.

He said the Government had "defended its position" on corporate tax rates. "We'd be very positive about that," he said.

"We have absolutely nothing to fear in respect of the transparency of the statute based corporation tax rate that we have here," he added. Responding to Mr Wilson's comments, Mr Kenny said the Government had complied with all of the regulations internationally here.


Mr Cameron appeared to be critical of the operation of the corporation tax system in this country. He was specifically asked what impact the shift in public opinion towards action on tax will have on the Republic given the 12.5pc tax rate and given the focus on Ireland.

"I don't believe in minimum tax rates and I think it's perfectly acceptable for countries to set low tax rates in order to attract business and to be competitive," the prime minister told the 'Belfast Telegraph'.

"What's not acceptable is to turn a blind eye to bad corporate practice. I think what we need to make sure where people set their tax rates, the tax is actually paid.

"I don't criticise the Republic of Ireland for having a low corporate tax rate, we have a low corporate tax rate here in the UK, but I do think it's important that having set the tax rate, that we expect companies to pay it."

Irish Independent

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