The names of 1,512 individuals granted tax exempt status between 1998 and the end of 2001 were published this weekend. A further 2,155 individuals who benefited from the scheme to the end of 2004 were named by the Revenue earlier this year.
Among those granted tax exempt status for certain works are singers Samantha Mumba; Sinéad O’Connor; Elvis Costello, under his own name of Declan McManus, and Juliet Turner.
Novelists Michel Houllebecq; John Connolly and Eoin Colfer, all make the list. In 2002, Mr Houellebecq won the €100,000 IMPAC prize for his novel Atomised.
Best-selling authors Cathy Kelly; Sheila O’Flanagan; Martina Devlin and former Fr Ted actress Pauline McLynn are also listed, as are playwright Conor McPherson and a number of well-known journalists, including the BBC’s John Simpson.
While the list does include some household names, the majority of those granted tax exempt status are not widely known and many have low incomes.
The total income of the writers, musicians and artists over the seven-year period is unknown. However, in 2000 and 2001, artists earned more than €200m.
In 2001, 28 individuals, earning between €500,000 and €10m, had a combined income of €62m. A further 31 earned between €200,000 and €500,000.
However, in a nine-month period that year, 694 of those listed earned less than €10,000.
Finance Minister Brian Cowen has announced a review of the scheme. Critics say it should be radically changed so top earners, including rock stars and best-selling authors, do not benefit.
There are calls for a cut-off point above which tax exemption would not apply. Concerns have been raised in the Dáil that just 2%, the 28 top earners, earned 58% of the total income. Tax exemption for artists was introduced in 1969 by then Finance Minister Charlie Haughey. In an interview published in 2003, Mr Haughey said he was proud of his involvement in its introduction.
He said a number of artists approached him over the years and said they would not have been able to continue their work without the tax exempt status.