Signs Of Innocence

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In an interview with the Observer, the Irish singer says his country’s controversial policies – which help multinational companies avoid billions in tax – have “brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known”.

The 54-year-old says that Ireland’s economy is dependent on attracting multinational companies – including Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon – with tax avoidance strategies, including a loophole dubbed the “Double Irish”, the use of two Irish companies to lower the effective tax rate.

Bono said: “We are a tiny little country, we don’t have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known.

“That’s how we got these companies here … We don’t have natural resources, we have to be able to attract people.”

Bono, who describes himself as a “natural social democrat”, said Ireland had benefited from “more hospitals and firemen and teachers because of [our tax] policies”.


Bono: controversial tax laws have brought Ireland the only prosperity it’s ever known (Rupert Neate,Dorian Lynskey/The Observer)

Previously: We Get To Carry Each Other

And There Won’t Be Snow In Africa This Christmas Time


“U2 Is In Total Harmony With Our Government’s Philosophy”

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

66 thoughts on “Signs Of Innocence

  1. Sidewinder

    Bono lecturing us on tax practices? That man’s horse must be seventeen stories high by now. In the words of Stan Marsh “At some point, can’t (he) just…f*** off?”

  2. Ernie Ball

    Honestly, f*pp this guy and his horses**t.

    F off to Malibu or wherever and stop pontificating about what’s best for us or anyone else, you ignoramus.

  3. munkifisht

    He’s the wrong guy to be saying it, but it’s a valid point. Lichtenstein, Portugal, Cypres, Macedonia, Albania and Estonia all have low corporate tax rates at 12.5% or lower. The injustice is that in Ireland we also pay 41% tax, 4% PRSI, 7% USC and have a VAT rate of 23% which makes us one of the worst countries in Europe regarding tax for the ordinary people, and the worst in that list.

    1. Ernie Ball

      That’s because somebody is going to have to provide revenue to the state. If it’s not the corporations, it’ll be us. Those corporations he names, by the way, with their “double Irish” shell game, give us almost nothing while booking billions in revenue through here. That swells both our nominal GNP and GDP with almost zero benefit to the nation, thereby increasing our share of EU budget costs among other things.

      1. Delacaravanio

        Gave us nothing? Bullshit.

        Thousands of high paying manufacturing, R&D and support jobs in the likes of Apple, Dell (still employ hundreds in Limerick despite pulling manufacturing) Pfizer, Intel, Google, etc. exist here largely because those companies can funnel revenue through the place. Plenty of work was created here in the construction of factories and still exists in their maintenance (plumbers, electricians, security guards, etc.).

        Lots of the jobs in those companies are filled by Europeans who move here to work in those companies (because we don’t teach foreign languages here to fill them), but their presence creates thousands of jobs in the economy to service them.

        Imagine what Lexlip would look like without Intel, Galway without Boston Scientific, Cork without Apple? Where would Dublin be without Google, Ebay and all the other large dot.coms? What about the thousands who are still employed in the IFSC?

        We can delude ourselves into thinking we were exploited naively by these companies, or we can recognise the reality of the faustian pact we made with them.

        1. munkifisht

          Well said. If all of Europe was under the same corporate tax band why the hell would any of those companies ever come to Ireland? The obvious place for them to go is England or France or Germany. We had to make ourselves somehow competitive.

          This said, Ireland has now established itself and has a support infrastructure built around these companies. They have thousands of skilled personal they depend on. The threat that is made by these companies is that without the tax structure they would pull out of Ireland is highly doubtful, and a harsher tax structure wouldn’t signal a flight of the earls style abandonment of Ireland, but the low corporate tax rate and Irish double does mean continued investment by multinationals in Ireland.

    2. nige

      the issue isn’t the low corporate tax rate it’s the use of the “double Irish” which results in billions being siphoned off to tax havens. We can’t cry foul when we are labelled as a tax haven and, at the same time, actively facilitate the use of tax havens by large corporations.

  4. jungleman

    “We don’t have natural resources”…

    Sums up perfectly why he’s full of crap. I’d say Enda told him that.

      1. cluster

        What oil?

        Almost no oil or gas is extracted from Irish territorial waters. If there was so much hydrocarbons to exploit & we had sold off the rights so cheaply, why is so little being extracted?

        I am willing to believe that the likes of Ray Burke would strike an unfavourable deal for the country and it is not completely unrealistic to think that the state might be too cowardly/risk-adverse to attempt a Norweigan-style approach but is the lack of extraction not a major flaw in this constant ‘giving away our resources’ refrain.

        1. Medium Sized C

          This.

          There has never been any suggestion that there is enough oil or gas for us to be able to make big bucks off.

          Norway shouldn’t even come into it.

  5. mauriac

    what a pathetic lack of confidence in Ireland and its potential that that little Dutch corporate spokesperson has.

  6. anomanomanom

    Im assuming all the bono haters on here,not a huge fan myself by the way, would happily say no to their accounts if he could save you millions, obviously assuming we all had money like bono. Face facts U2 are a company, why would you pay more tax than you legally have to. You think the Euromillions winners are going to keep their money in this country. Its called being sensible with money.

    1. Sidewinder

      It’s called being a massive fupping hypocrite. He bangs on about social responsibility and Ireland’s commitment to international aid all while paying as little as possible into the pot for both of these things.

      Personally I would definitely keep my money here because I feel some loyalty to my country but if I didn’t I wouldn’t call myself a spokesperson for social responsibility.

    2. Jock

      Tax avoidance schemes are immoral in many people’s eyes particularly when the participants chastise countries for not spending their tax on the poor.

    3. mauriac

      maybe I would (although I’d like to think I wouldn’t be so greedy) but I certainly wouldn’t then preach hypocritically on tax rates or how tax should be spent.

      1. anomanomanom

        agreed. The preaching shit is why u don’t like him. Not because he’s smart with his companies money here

        1. Delacaravanio

          It’s because he’s a hypocrite. How many times did he pressure the state here to increase our share of money going to supporting the third world while at the same time paying 0% tax due to the uncapped nature of the artists exemption in our tax laws.

          As soon as the exemption is capped he then moves the bulk of his money offshore so he can continue to avoid contributing anything to our coffers.

          1. Smashmouth

            He doesn’t pay 0% tax

            His business “U2” pays 0%

            He as an Irish citizen pays the same taxes as you and I

          2. Delacaravanio

            No, he, as an artist, was, and to a large degree still is, free from income tax thanks to Charlie Haughey’s exemption. U2 ltd, or whatever they call their company, was designed to keep this small number even lower.

    4. Ernie Ball

      Because you’re not some stateless entity but a citizen of Ireland as you like to endlessly emphasise to all and sundry when it suits you. Even in this interview, he makes a great deal of his Irishness. But when it comes to his multiple millions (how much is enough anyway?), all his “Irishness” goes out the window.

      1. anomanomanom

        Why would any company pay what they don’t have to. Why not be as competitive in that tax regard so people like U2 don’t move, or have to move, to save millions

        1. mauriac

          or support a financial transaction tax,harmonise e.u. corporation tax and institute a global tax system via the u.n. for global corporations.

  7. rotide

    In the landslide of begrudgery that’s only to be expected in any thread featuring succesful people, noone has actually refuted his point.

    He’s right andyou know it.

    1. Jock

      I’m ashamed of our tax schemes that have allowed billions to be siphoned off from our supposed friends.
      It’s not clever at all.

      1. cluster

        Our supposed friends?

        The truth is that corporation tax, organised on a national basis, makes little sense anymore.

        Multinationals can have operations in up to a hundred countries. Even if they weren’t being cynical about it (and obv many are) there would be difficult questions about where they paid corporation tax, on what basis & how fair this was.

        If our wealthy and powerful ‘friends’ wanted to, they could shut down many of the loopholes in the morning. They could also decide to put more of the tax at the point of sale and on income earned by individuals from these corporations. It would make much more sense.

    2. deliverancecountry

      Ernie Ball above reckons we have artificially inflated GNP and GDP while money is flushed through and I would add that the bills are paid by the other 1,999,000 workers and employers who are paying 20 and 30 and 40% tax. It’s nice we have a small market for luxury cars but the trickle up theory is on shaky ground.

      1. rotide

        Ernie Ball above is full of it, as Delacaravanio pointed out.

        You come slightly closer to refuting his point but still not quite.

        The bottom line is that he’s right. we never HAVE had it so good and a lot of that is down to the tax rate.

        1. Ernie Ball

          You seem to have missed my rebuttal. The only person full of it here is Bono and those who agree with him.

        2. deliverancecountry

          I don’t think Ernie Ball is full of it nor Delacaravanio quite correct.
          We paid for land, access roads and unlimited water for many of the industries mentioned in the form of grants and infrastructure investments, plus a competitively waged workforce. (Not to mention billions in EU structural funds per year) The corporation tax rate was slashed later for shelf companies to roll money through. The percentage of the tax take is small compared to the amounts of revenue generated by actual goods and services which we export. Corporation tax take is 2.2% of GDP from a total tax revenue of 29.5% of GDP
          http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Tax_revenue_statistics

        3. jungleman

          “we never HAVE had it so good and a lot of that is down to the tax rate.”

          Nonsense, the country is nowhere near as well off as ten years ago. And that prosperity was a result of the property boom. Granted that was a bubble. But it is starting to look like our corp tax regime is also something of a bubble that might just be burst by the EU.

          We need to focus on more tangible industries, such as renewable energy, agriculture, oil and gas(if viable), tourism.. And of course, the backbone of the Irish economy, the SMEs, many of which are floundering from a lack of financial support.

        4. cluster

          He has a point even if it is not the full picture.

          It is also a clumsy and simplistic way to frame the issue &’it would be much more helpful if he wasn’t providing a (barely) left-leaning newspaper with slightly misleading quotes to use as a stick to bet us with.

          He could easily have pointed out that the UK has a whole slew of tax incentives to attract certain type of capital and FDI to their shores – something that the Guardian is strangely rather quiet about. He could be pointing out that there is a huge difference between effective corporation tax rates and headline rates in many countries.

          He could also pose the question why small countries should merely accept that large multinationals should pay corporation tax in large, already wealthy countries when their sales are global. Instead he is merely giving credence to the idea that we re doing little but engaging in a large tax swindle.

    3. curmudgeon

      Well that’s the thing about credibility. Ad hominem attacks are low tier, refuting the central argument is key. But if the person making the argument is not credible, obviously biased or a hypocrite (perhaps all three) i.e. a multi-millionaire tax exile, well then it’s only reasonable that the public will react adversely. As for his argument the premise is that FDA has been a good thing, and we don’t really have natural resources. Thing is we have been always been a pushover for these companies. just look at the recent bullying from big pharma when our govt tried to lower our drug costs for HSE and consumers. The SHELL deal courtesy Ray Burke completely screwed the country over even if shell employed 100% Irish staff. I could be here all day.

  8. offMooof

    Bono is the ugly face of Irelands economic model, a model to which an alternative needs to be articulated. What is the point in Bono? A sign of a culture that is out of touch if he gets a platform and a voice, his name should be dirt is there any kind of consesus on giving that toad a voice?

    1. rotide

      We’re all ears offMooof.

      I look forward to your alternative economic model brimming with hyperbole.

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