An unknown number of multinational firms have side-stepped more than €130 billion in unpaid taxes over the past decade because of loopholes in the Irish system.
Opposition parties made the claim yesterday as they accused Government of putting forward “lies” that this country’s corporation tax rate is at risk from the European Commission’s €13bn Apple tax ruling.
Speaking under Dáil privilege, People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett and Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty alleged that numerous companies have taken advantage of Ireland’s tax laws to avoid paying vast sums of money which would normally be owed to the taxpayer.
Pointing to a Department of Finance tax rates briefing document given to a 2014 Dáil finance sub-committee, Mr Boyd Barrett said between 2003 and 2007 major firms wrote off €1.5bn to €6.3bn in taxes.
He said after Revenue’s 2007 Apple ruling, the written-off taxes rose suddenly to €19.4bn in 2009, €19.8bn in 2010, €21.4bn in 2011, €21bn in 2012, €24bn in 2013 and €23bn in 2014.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner moments after Mr Boyd Barrett raised the concerns, Revenue confirmed the figures relate “mainly to multinational companies” and are the result of “increased trade charges related to the payment of certain royalties”.
However, when asked if the sudden increase has anything to do with the 2007 Revenue opinion on Apple, a spokesperson said due to “taxation confidentiality”, Revenue is “precluded from commenting on individual tax cases”.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Boyd Barrett said, while legal, the lost taxes show Apple is just one of a number of multinational firms avoiding tax in Ireland by setting up second companies “based nowhere” so they can transfer their profits.
Calling for TDs to accept the “clear” issues with our tax system, he said it is “simply inconceivable that both Government and the tax authorities did not notice this enormous jump”.
The position was mirrored by Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, who said the European Commission ruling “sounded right because it is right”.
Criticising Government “lies” about attacks on a small nation when countries like Germany have also been hit with tax rulings, he said it now appears “patriots” who went along with Troika cuts and water charges now want to defend Ireland.
“We thought they were quislings. It turns out they were just very, very undercover,” he said.
While Labour leader Brendan Howlin and finance spokesperson Joan Burton stressed the appeal should still be sought despite acknowledging the clear need for tax reforms, Greens leader Eamon Ryan and remaining Social Democrats Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall both insisted no appeal should take place
Former member and co-founder of the Social Democrats, Stephen Donnelly notably abstaining.
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