Heritage tax breaks: Review needed

Many years ago, when Charles Haughey introduced a scheme of tax incentives to encourage artists to live and work in Ireland, the welcome and impact were immediate and universal. It seemed an entirely good idea.

Some decades later, that general view changed when it became known the tax breaks were almost open-ended and that multimillion-euro incomes went untaxed because of it.

An entirely good idea had lost its way and was, like it or not, abused. It was a victory for accountants rather than artists.

We may be at the same point with section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act — the scheme that affords individuals tax breaks in return for heritage donations to the State.

Various collections, some valuable only in the very narrowest context, have secured multimillion tax breaks. This paid-for patriotism is at best questionable and is, despite appearances, not without cost to the State.

Despite that, the scheme has an intrinsic value and should continue, but it may be time to limit its application — especially as it so often seems to benefit those with the very least need.

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