You say 'project champion', I say 'Whaaaaa?!'
The solution to our economic crisis is for rich people to pay less tax, apparently. By David Johnson.
You turn your back for a hermeneutical minute (slightly longer than a New York minute, somewhere between 2,500 years and two days) and the Government go and do something so completely beyond the pale that were you a coffee-drinking man your computer screen would now have moved from the "slightly worn" category to "shop soiled", the remnants of your morning caffeinated beverage of choice now cascading down the LED-backlit glossy widescreen TFT display faster than the meltwater from a retreating Greenland glacier, the room still reverberating to the sound of your spluttered, "Whaaaaaa?"
News reaches us this morning of the publication of the 2012 Finance Bill, the legislation that will enact most of the measures outlined in the December budget. While An Taoiseach is in the US for a two-day whirlwind ‘investment drive’, seeking to bring more multinational companies to our shores to avail of our light-touch regulation and low-tax regime, no doubt he has been scratching his head trying to figure out how he can make Ireland even more attractive to tax-avoiding foreign plutocrats. Good news for him then that the big-ticket item in the Finance Bill is The Special Assignee Relief Programme, mentioned in the Budget but only getting a proper airing now with the publication of the Bill.
Why is this programme of particular interest to the type of multi-national CEO An Taoiseach is seeking to lure to our Dutch-Sandwich-Republic? Well apparently the ability to evade billions of dollars in corporate tax is no longer enough of a motivation for these captains of industry, who feel that they themselves are being unfairly discriminated against because corporations are being given rights that are not readily available to them as individuals. Thus our progressive Government will take the only course of action morally justifiable and extend the Irish tax avoidance regime to individual taxpayers - not all taxpayers mind you - just foreign executives and CEOs.
“The special tax breaks are aimed at so-called project champions who would relocate to Ireland to oversee significant investments and will apply to indigenous as well as multinational firms... A Government source said yesterday the tax breaks were required to ensure high-earning individuals who could play a vital role in job creation were encouraged to come to Ireland... He emphasised that the incentives would only apply to people involved in new product development and could not be availed of by people already working here. The qualifying individuals will have a significant proportion of their salaries exempt from tax.”
Well at least this is aimed at foreign tech firms who arguably do provide some employment, and not the gambling houses of the IFSC, right?
“The scheme will be a boost to the International Financial Services Centre although the Government says it is not designed to lure highly paid London bankers to Dublin.”
It's not enough that successive Governments have kowtowed to our own indigenous tax-exiles, the modern day Earls who have fled our shores for sunnier climes in Malta, the Bahamas and, um, the Netherlands, now they seem to have decided that the road to recovery starts with the importation of a new set of tax-exiles. If I were Bono, 'Sir' Tony O'Reilly or Denis O'Brien I would start to fear for my cherished position in Irish society, now that An Taoiseach has decided to import foreign workers to fill their roles. Expect the next Global Irish Forum to be filled with Irish fat cats crying out in bloated unison, "They turrrk errr jerrrbbbs!"
"The solution to our economic crisis is for rich people to pay less tax."
That's your Government, that is.
Image top: redmonk.