Friday 20 September 2019

Comment: Investment firm's tax bill cuts to the heart of the skewed Irish recovery

Ireland's investor friendly regime is out of kilter with the norm
Ireland's investor friendly regime is out of kilter with the norm
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

In today's Ireland accidental landlords are taxed through the nose if they let out their boom era 'starter home' in order to rent a family sized property, but owners of entire apartment-blocks pay nothing.

The contrasts between the tax being paid by investor Kennedy Wilson in Ireland, Spain and the UK for income from similar assets is a stark illustration of how skewed the Irish tax system has become in favour of globe-trotting, value-hunting multinationals.

The zero tax rate that applies to income on €1bn of Irish assets owned by property firm Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate (KWERE) is definitive proof the system here stinks.

The evidence of the company's own accounts is clear, stark and publicly available. In Spain, a market like Ireland that was picked over by distressed asset investors after a property crash, KWERE is paying tax at a rate of 25pc on its profits.

In the UK it's paying 20pc.

In Ireland and Italy, it's pays nothing.

The figures tell us two things. First, big funds like Kennedy Wilson can and will pay tax where and when it's applied.

Secondly, Ireland's investor friendly regime is out of kilter with the norm.

There's no point blaming Kennedy Wilson. It was one of the first US investors prepared to invest in Irish property after the banking crisis, and rightly reaped the financial benefits of savvy investing. It's playing by the tax rules. The blame lies with successive governments that have fallen over themselves to make life easy for big investors with new laws and regulations allowing for the creation all kinds of exotic and tax-efficient structures.

In the meantime, more of the costs of running the kind of country where money managers are comfortable investing has shifted onto income tax.

In the period since the crash Ireland has cleared a tax-free investment path for big investors, while an extra €5bn a year in tax bills has been piled on the shoulders of middle income PAYE and USC workers.

Irish Independent

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