U2 'not feeling the love' over tax
U2 made known their displeasure to the Government following a speech given by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton about the band moving part of their rock empire to Holland for tax reasons, it has been learnt.
It has been confirmed that in the immediate aftermath of Ms Burton's speech, a band representative made contact with a senior government adviser to "seek greater clarity" on what she had said.
A government source last night described the band's unhappiness with Ms Burton's speech, saying: "The boys aren't feeling the love."
Last month, in a speech, Ms Burton became the first government minister to directly criticise U2's move to
Holland to avail of lower taxes, following the introduction of the cap on the artists' tax exemption. This newspaper first revealed the band's controversial move to Holland in August 2006 and their collaboration with Amsterdam-based tax adviser Jan Favie, who has also worked with the Rolling Stones.
By moving their publishing to Holland, U2 – lead singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jnr, as well as their manager Paul McGuinness – were able to legitimately avoid paying tax on their royalties.
The band's notoriously complex finances also feature in a new book, The Frontman, authored by journalist Harry Browne, which is being launched this week. In her speech, Ms Burton criticised companies that were not paying their fair share of taxes to help pay for essential public services and she made a direct reference to U2 during that speech.
She said: "I often meet people from different parts of Europe, who can be quite critical of elements of the Irish tax regime. But I always say to them, well, you know, we have a very attractive regime over a long period of time for people who are artists and in fact, the well-known example, U2, moved quite an element of its activities through the Netherlands because clearly whatever the Netherlands was doing was far more attractive in tax terms for their companies and for their organisations than the quite generous arrangements that Ireland has traditionally had in the area.
"That's not acceptable if a huge amount of personal wealth and corporate earnings and corporate profits are diverted in a way in which they make little effective contribution."
A source close to the band – which has sold more than 150 million records around the world and has an accumulated net worth of €805m, according to the latest Sunday Independent Rich List – last night confirmed that the band made contact with the Government to "clarify" what Ms Burton had said about them.
The source said: "There was an informal conversation in the days after her speech. The purpose of the call was twofold. Firstly, it was to seek greater clarity on what Joan said. But it was also to communicate the band's own position. U2 operate all over the world and pay taxes all over the world."
In December 2011, when Bono met Taoiseach Enda Kenny, he presented the Fine Gael leader with a bottle of Mayo whiskey as the advisers were sent away and the pair discussed affairs of State.
The duo had a two-hour private meeting in the Taoiseach's office, during which the U2 singer's offer to act as an ambassador for Ireland was discussed, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Bono presented the bottle of whiskey, believed to be the niche Inish Turk Beg, to the Taoiseach as a Christmas gift.