More authors join the tax-free artists
ANDREW BUSHE AN international best-selling author, one of the writers of the TV hit series Father Ted, a Sixties folk-singing superstar and members of some of the country's top bands are among the latest "artists" to be granted tax-free status.
There are 152 new additions to the Revenue Commissioner's tax-free artists list including 42 authors, 16 playwrights or screenwriters, 30 musicians or singers, 54 painters and 10 sculptors.
The scheme is unique in the world for allowing artists to keep every cent of their earnings, though they do pay PRSI.
However, Finance Minister Brian Cowen plans to restrict the perk from January 1 next.
Since it was introduced by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey 37 years ago to help struggling Irish writers and artists, the scheme has attracted a number of wealthy best-selling authors like thriller writers Frederick Forsyth and Len Deighton, Booker prize winner DBC Pierre, Manchurian Candidate writer Richard Condon and France's controversial novelist Michel Houellebecq.
The latest British best-selling author to be approved by the taxman is novelist and screenwriter Tim Willocks.
A qualified doctor specialising in addiction therapy, his books Bad City Blues, Green River Rising and Bloodstained Kings have all been international hits.
Described by one critic as the "Quentin Tarantino of the literary world", he adapted Bad City Blues for the screen and it was filmed starring Dennis Hopper in 1999. His screenplay Sin was filmed starring Gary Oldman in 2003.
He also wrote the screenplay for the 1996 film Sweet Angel Mine and the 1999 Steven Spielberg documentary The Unfinished Journey that was part-narrated by ex-President Bill Clinton.
He has been granted tax exemption for both his novels and script-writing.
Also included on the tax-free list are members of the Bridies Celtic rock group, the rock and roll quartet Humanzi, the Bumblebees, the Organics and the Future Kings of Spain.
The list of musicians also includes Colin Vearncombe, the singer known as 'Black', and sing/songwriters Brendan Devereaux, Claire Sproule, and Julie Feeney.
Novelist Brian Gallagher has been granted tax exemption for his behind-the-scenes Inside Fair City book on the TV soap, and co-writer of the Father Ted hit series Arthur Mathews is exempted for his fictitious autobiography Well-Remembered Days.
Also on the list is Sixties Scottish superstar Donovan Leitch (for his autobiography The Hurdy Gurdy Man), former SDLP Stormont MP, FG minister and presidential candidate Austin Currie for his political memoir All Hell Will Break Loose and Judith Hill for An Irish Life, her biography of Abbey Theatre founder Lady Gregory.
Other writers exempted include Dubliner Mary Bond (for her debut novel Absolutely Love), Sligo-born former radio presenter Suzanne Higgins for her first book The Power of a Woman, Justina Hurley for Dance With Life, crime writer Gerard Murphy for his book Death Without Trace and Dubliner Suzanne Power for her debut novel The Lost Souls' Reunion.
Cork writer Martin McSweeney's first novel Two Weeks In June was also exempted. His screenplay Living For Yesterday, won the Bronze Award in the 2005 International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
Children's writer Marie Burlington is exempted for her latest book Helpful Hannah, as is Margaret Kennedy, the first female keeper at the Dublin Zoo, for her book Mr Luggie Tatters about a mongrel pup. Joe Byrne is exempted for his latest adventure of Alfie Green and the Magical Gift and Brent Pope for his children's fiction.
Novelist Deirdre Purcell is exempted for Be Delighted the tribute book she edited about Maureen Potter, Eamonn Lonergan is on the list for his history of the South Eastern Health Board, Edward O'Neill for his book Two Little Boys about the 1974 Dublin bombings, and Barbara Keating co-author with her sister Stephanie of Blood Sisters about growing up in Kenya.
Other playwrights and screen writers exempted include Naomi Sheridan, daughter of director Jim Sheridan, and Cork's Declan Hassett for his play Sisters.
After revelations that one mystery artist - thought to be one of the country's super-rich rock stars - earned ?10m in 2001 without paying any tax, Mr Cowen said he could not stand over a situation in which high-earning tax residents could reduce their taxable income to nil.
"This is simply not a fair situation," Mr Cowen said when he announced in the budget that he would "cap" the tax-free earnings at ?250,000 and introduce a sliding scale of tax on income above that.