Millionaires' tax avoidance revealed

Tax loopholes allowed 11 millionaires to avoid paying levies on their earnings for the year 2001, new figures revealed today.

Tax loopholes allowed 11 millionaires to avoid paying levies on their earnings for the year 2001, new figures revealed today.

Joan Burton, Labour Party finance spokeswoman, said Department of Finance statistics showed shocking inequalities in the State’s tax system – rewarding the wealthy while punishing the less well-off.

Ms Burton claimed the one-sided policies were a legacy of tax avoidance measures favoured by former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy.

“They are a truly astonishing indictment of the range of tax loopholes and avoidance measures built up during the McCreevy years which allow many of the most wealthy in Irish society to avoid tax,” Ms Burton said.

The figures show 41 people with incomes of €500,000 or more paid no income tax three years ago.

Eleven of these, nine self-employed and two PAYE workers, had incomes of more than €1m.

The finance figures also show 242 people with earnings of between €100,000 and €1m paid no tax for the 2001 tax year, while a further 149 people had paid an effective rate of tax of 20% or less.

It is believed a number of top earners have been able to avoid paying income tax due to property investment schemes which qualify them for tax avoidance.

Far from bringing a halt to these lucrative loopholes, former Finance Minister McCreevy, now European Union Commissioner for Internal Markets, extended the schemes at the last Budget.

“We have a set of people that although they have the good fortune to enjoy these great incomes they don’t have to pay tax,” Ms Burton said.

“It is almost certain that the figures for 2002 and 2003, when eventually published, will show an even more extreme and disturbing situation.”

Ms Burton said the ordinary taxpayer would no longer accept patients being left stranded on hospital trolleys waiting for a bed, while the wealthiest avoided tax duties.

And she said her party would now demand a permanent tax reform commission to deal with deep inequalities embedded in the tax system.

The party called for a minimum effective tax rate to ensure extreme distortions of the tax system would be eliminated in the future.

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