Saturday 23 June 2018

Taoiseach goes head to head with EU's taxing questions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Shona Murray

The Taoiseach tackled the thorny issue of Ireland's tax regime head on at a debate on the future of Europe in Strasbourg.

There was, after all, no point avoiding it - it's a major source of friction between Ireland and especially its chief ally after Brexit, France.

President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for a harmonised tax system within the EU in order to end the practice of aggressive tax avoidance measures engaged in by multi-national tech giants.

He will likely be disappointed by Mr Varadkar's refusal to move on this matter.

The Taoiseach said tax issues "should be determined by national governments" but "equally true was the fact that corporations should pay their fair share of tax".

"We cannot tolerate a situation where large companies can avoid paying taxes anywhere."

He said Ireland has already taken steps to close loopholes in our tax laws "and we will do more", but stopped well short of agreeing to the CCCTB - Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base proposals - from the French.

During the debate he was compelled to defend the government's appeal of the European Commission's Apple ruling on illegal state aid when criticised for doing so by Green Party MEP Philippe Lamberts.

He said the Government was entitled to do this as there was 'no special deal' given to Apple as found in the investigation by European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager.

He also hit out at the regular attacks at Ireland's tax policy, and pointed out that while France has a high corporate tax rate "on paper", it allows huge tax exemptions which makes their tax rate "even lower" than Ireland's.

In his 25-minute address he also recommitted Ireland's position at the centre of Europe and the euro and called for "even more free trade" and globalisation. As the first head of government in a series of leaders' addresses at the European Parliament he called for the EU to "serve the interests" of all "citizens and not just corporations".

"Now is the time to fulfil the promise of the single market in other areas," he said. "For example, insurance, mortgages and loans, so that people can get cheaper loans from European lenders and insurers if needs be."

Irish Independent

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