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Saturday 20 October 2018

Tax break gives Cecelia more cash to play with

ANDREW BUSHE

Best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, who has already been granted tax-free status for earnings from her novels, has now been given the perk by the Revenue Commissioners for her first play.

The six books by the daughter of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, including PS, I Love You, which was published when she was aged 21, have made her one of the country's wealthiest writers.

Last year, her first play, Mrs Whippy, premiered at the Liberty Hall Theatre and she is a co-creator of the comedy sitcom Samantha Who? starring Christina Applegate which attracted 14.4 million viewers on America's ABC network.

Ms Ahern as playwright is among 98 additions to the list of tax-exempt artists, which includes 37 painters, 33 authors, 11 musicians and singers, nine scriptwriters, four sculptors, three artistic photographers and an installation artist.

Another person on the list for a second time under a new category is Father Ted star Ardal O'Hanlon.

He is already paying no tax on earnings from The Talk of the Town, his account of growing up in small-town Ireland, and now his scriptwriting earnings will also be exempt.

High-profile sports figures given the tax-break include former GAA president Sean Kelly for Rule 42 and All That; Ronan O'Gara and Denis Walsh for Ronan O'Gara: My Autobiography; and Anthony Foley, Munster's most capped player, for Axel, A Memoir.

Some RTE journalists won't pay tax on earnings from their books.

They include Myles Dungan for How the Irish Won the West; Ciaran Mullooly for Death on Holy Thursday: The Shooting of John McCarthy in Abbeylara; Niall O'Flynn for Ireland's Olympians, Beijing and Beyond; and Damien Tiernan for The Souls of the Sea, about two trawler tragedies off the southeast coast that claimed seven lives.

Also on the list is gay campaigner Katherine Zappone for Our Lives Out Loud, written with partner Ann Louise Gilligan; Charles Foster for Breaking the Dams: the story of Dambuster David Maltby and his crew; and Kevin Barry for There are Little Kingdoms.

The tax perk has been granted to singer-songwriters Carly Blackman, Lisa Hannigan and Geraldine Mangan.

It is also going to members of the band Super Extra Bonus Party.

The scheme is unique globally in allowing artists to keep every cent of their earnings up to a threshold, although they do pay PRSI.

It was introduced by the late Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1969 to help struggling artists and to show that the country valued creativity.

Thousands of artists have benefited from the scheme, which cost the exchequer almost €138m in the five years from 1998-99 to 2002.

The identities of recipients remained secret until 2002, when it was decided to name those who had applied for the exemption from 1998 onwards.

International stars such as U2, the Corrs, Enya and Chris de Burgh have not been named, though they are believed to have used the scheme prior to 1998.

One mystery artist -- thought to be one of the country's super-rich rock stars -- earned an untaxed €10m a year under the scheme.

An amendment to the scheme in 2007 confined annual earnings to a maximum of €250,000 after which tax becomes due.

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