PAC to question companies including  Apple and Google on taxes

Six multinationals including Apple and Google are set to be hauled before the Dáil’s financial watchdog next year to explain the amount of tax they pay in Ireland amid concerns about loopholes in the system.

The public accounts committee has confirmed it will ask tech firms Apple and Google, financial institutions JP Morgan and Citibank, and pharmaceuticals GSK and Pfizer to appear in the wake of the Paradise Papers and Revenue tax take concerns.

Speaking at the latest meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as questions continue over whether Apple will go ahead with its planned Athenry data centre, committee chairman and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said he wants all six of the “big players” to answer questions on their taxes early next year.

Noting that a number of the firms have previously attended meetings on the same issue at Westminster, he said they need to show “the same respect to the Irish parliament” and that their attendance is requested voluntarily “at this point”.

“I think it is important for the PAC and the public at large to hear from the other side of the equation — the multinational sector — and their understanding of how corporation tax works in Ireland,” said Mr Fleming.

He noted that there is “volatility and risk to the exchequer” due to Ireland’s “heavy reliance” on the firms.

A total of 75% of corporation tax comes from large multinational companies, with 10 firms paying 36% of all corporation tax taken in by Revenue.

The decision to invite the six firms to a PAC meeting was backed by a number of committee members.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said any meeting must also ensure the committee “has sight of some of the thinking behind the Department of Finance’s approach” and the equally important issue of “very significant tax shelters”.

Ms Murphy said the department needs to explain “what they had anticipated would come in [in tax] and was something [in the tax rules] used in a way it shouldn’t”.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane also said the issue needs to focus on “alleged loopholes”, noting that while some are legal. “it would be useful if we could get a briefing on the tax code”.

He added that the named firms may be able to give a “detailed briefing” on the 2013 and 2015 government changes to Ireland’s tax rules.

Both Mr Cullinane and Independent TD Catherine Connolly said the PAC members should be given specific pre-meeting advice from an independent tax expert before any questioning takes place, with Ms Connolly saying any meeting will be “just a window-dressing exercise” unless the advice is provided.

The move was welcomed by a number of other TDs yesterday due to the recent Paradise Papers scandal.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said he called for the meetings three years ago but was “blocked” by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Any PAC meetings with the companies are likely to be seen in a different light by the Government and the Department of Finance due to the ongoing question mark over whether Apple will still develop its planned €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, as there are fears it may switch investment to Denmark.

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