Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Financial Resolution No. 4: Corporation Tax
I do not have the same concerns as the previous two speakers with regard to Financial Resolution No. 4. I see it as an anti-tax avoidance measure. In fact, a balancing charge is a means of making sure a company does not claim tax relief on the costs of an asset. It is a clawback mechanism and so is a good measure to put in place to ensure that multinational companies do not use tax avoidance or similar measures to offset against the taxes they should pay. To use the words of the Minister for Finance, it "will ensure that our tax regime for intellectual property [...] remains competitive, legitimate and sustainable".
What I do find interesting about this measure, however, is that it comes a number of days after my colleague, Teachta Doherty, was attacked by the Tánaiste for recommending exactly the same thing. Teachta Doherty proposed a very similar measure, which came from the same expert review panel set up by the former Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, in 2017. The Tánaiste got a rush of blood to the head when he saw Teachta Doherty talking about corporation tax and, instead of trying to understand what was being said, went into attack mode, which backfired. I do, however, welcome that Fine Gael has recently had some sort of conversion with regard to the introduction of anti-tax avoidance measures. If it was not for Teachta Doherty, some of the previous speakers and others, measures of this kind would not be looked at. These measures are important. The measure Teachta Doherty proposed would have raised an additional €720 million.
That could have been used to better support our hospitality sector, spend more on public housing stock or for better services in health and other areas.
It is the same with Financial Resolutions Nos. 5 and 6. They are also important measures. Over recent budgets, and again this evening, we have pointed out that the special assignee relief programme, SARP, allows high-income employees, on salaries of up to €1 million a year, to reduce their income tax bills by up to €111,000 each year. That reduces their tax rate down to 28%, while many workers on middle incomes pay tax at 40%. These types of tax relief should, therefore, be reduced.
We have seen a drip feed of measures, such as these, in the last several budgets. I welcome them and they are a welcome departure from the rhetoric we used to get from Fine Gael in recent years. It used to be a case of depicting the sort of tax avoidance measures that were in place as not existing, not being there or that we were reading too much into the situation. We were not, we have been vindicated and we welcome the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, and his party having a late conversion to closing these loopholes and that they are, at least, making some effort to do so. I congratulate my colleague, Teachta Doherty, and others, who have been putting the Tánaiste and his colleagues under pressure on this issue.