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Apple controversy lays bare complex Irish tax web

Reuters/ AFR | July 15, 2013
Companies, investors and some lawmakers argue it is a firm's duty to keep its tax bill as low as possible so it can invest to grow and return money to shareholders.

But for every Intel or Pfizer employing significant numbers in Ireland, there are many that bring few jobs with them, like reinsurer XL, which shifted its parent holding company to Dublin from the Cayman Islands in 2010 and employs 57 people in Ireland.

A spokeswoman for XL said it did not reincorporate to Ireland to reduce its tax bill and its worldwide effective corporate tax rate has been largely unaffected by the move.

But Ireland cannot escape the stigma attached to the "Double Irish Dutch sandwich", an arrangement where an Irish-registered entity cuts its taxable profit by paying a Dutch affiliate, which then pays a subsidiary in a tax haven.

Almost three-quarters of the 206 firms Reuters identified as having Irish subsidiaries also had one or more Dutch units.

According to one of the country's most famous proponents of the Dutch tax arrangement, Ireland's economy would be in even bigger trouble were it not for its competitive tax edge.

U2 singer and anti-poverty campaigner Bono faced criticism that the band had moved part of its business to the Netherlands.

"The shock horror moment here is U2 behaving like a business," he told Irish broadcaster RTE.

"We live in a small rock in the north Atlantic, and we would be under water were it not for very clever people in government and the revenue who made tax competitiveness a central part of Irish economic life."


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