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How the global corporate tax shake-up could yet blow the Irish fiscal house down

The Department of Justice a few days ago hosted the launch of a report by the Economic and Social Research Institute on the role immigrants play in creating new businesses across the country.


Under discussion was the scheme that allows entrepreneurs from outside Europe to apply for residency permits to set up businesses in Ireland.


Government policy appears to have come a long way from the days when all foreigners seeking to move to Ireland were viewed with deep suspicion by officials.


The scheme has met with mixed success. Over a five-year period, 129 permissions have been granted, marking a small move in the right direction.


The truth is we may soon need all the wealth creators we can get at a time when traditional drivers of growth are under threat.


The economy is seriously lopsided. It relies heavily on the product of waves of foreign investment that has served well so far.


But the conditions that helped produce those investment waves could soon no longer exist — at least in the ways we have known.


Ireland has performed well on the economic front with a record 2.3m now in paid work. We take what is a remarkable success story for granted.


This election campaign has been all about equity and securing the greater availability of public goods. But if the economy disappears back down the pan, along with it will go most of the worthy social projects.


The parties on the left appear to target the business sector for unwelcome attention. Yet, in targeting the best off, we need to distinguish between genuine wealth creators and economically parasitical activity, much of which is in the property sector.


The concern is that we could end up driving entrepreneurs away just when we may need to rely on indigenous enterprises.


The political and business establishment has questions to answer. Many, if not most, of the employees who are driving production in the economy are caught in a series of traps.


Workers with families are particularly affected.


But strangling the golden goose will not boost the nation’s well being.


There are worse things than congested roads.


Some politicians have been resorting to the same tactics of Jeremy Corbyn.


The British Labour party set out plans to extract large taxes from large companies and many British voters grasped that this would hit directly their own salaries, bonuses, and other perks, along with their prospect of a decent pension.


Many others view the corporate sector as avaricious rather than creating prosperity.

In the UK, the wealth and income gaps have widened since the 1970s.


The digital revolution has created a new generation of footloose companies that have avoided paying their proper dues to society.


These companies are now feeling the heat as pressure to overhaul global tax regimes grows.


Ireland has ridden a rising tide of foreign direct investment, particularly among intellectual property-rich companies.


Irish governments have not behaved with morality on international tax issues, but the business model has nonetheless been effective so far.


Over the past five years, 112,000 jobs have been created by IDA backed companies, including 55,000 jobs outside Dublin.


Back in the 1980s, it was commonly assumed that foreign investors would stop by briefly to collect the grants before quickly shipping out.


But the sector has grown and created generations of skilled managers and business owners.


Foreign investments have been good for the economy and the cynics have been proven wrong.


But the economy depends on a small number of very big multinationals in an increasingly uncertain world.


IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan has warned of tougher times ahead, as more countries target Ireland’s lunch.


Many have warned that profound change is coming that will shake up the way multinationals are taxed around the world.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which is driving the changes puts it “succinctly”: “Multinational enterprises exploit gaps and mismatches in the international tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax jurisdictions, and avoid paying their fair share of tax.”


It adds: “Examples involving famous brands have filled the headlines in recent years, spurring public and political outrage.”


University of Limerick professor Stephen Kinsella believes “we are on the cusp of a ‘Thunberg moment’ in global tax”.


He says the world this year could wake up to the “toxic relationship” that exists between very large firms weaving their way across tax jurisdictions and beneficiary states.

The consequences for Ireland could be huge, as the winds of change blow.


In Ireland, we are like the three little piggies, blithely confident that the house will not blowdown.


The baby porkers found out the hard way that their defences were not so secure.

The State needs to start preparing and carefully place a lid on public spending. For sure, redistribute resources based on need, but also challenge wasteful spending programmes.


Brexit, climate change, and international corporate tax reform loom ever larger as threats.



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