Prostituting Irish Citizenship

Nat O'Connor15/07/2013

Nat O'Connor: Up until 1996, under the so-called "Passports for Investment" scheme, a wealthy investor could gain Irish citizenship as part of a deal involving an investment in Ireland of over £1 million. Some details of the scheme can be read in the Oireachtas record here.

A new proposal, raised in today's Irish Times, suggests that tax exiles could buy extra time in Ireland, while still remaining non-resident for tax purposes, would represent another bizaare and offensive example of Ireland pandering to wealthy individuals and allow them to live under a different set of laws from everyone else.

The suggestion apparently comes from the Forum on Philanthropy. While they are looking at innovative ways to encourage planned charitable giving, there is a substantial difference between providing tax breaks for charitable donations, and providing other inducements (including different laws about residence) to get people to give to charity.

For transparency: TASC is a not-for-profit charitable body (CHY 14778) that benefits from the current tax break. If anyone donates more than €250 per year, a further 31% can be claimed from Revenue, paid out of income tax paid by that donor. But whoever that donor might be, he or she must pay income tax in Ireland in the normal way.

It is noteworthy (in the above Oireachtas transcript) that the original "Passports for Investment" scheme was similar to schemes in various tax privacy and offshore finance regimes, including: The Bahamas; Belize; Panama; St. Christopher and Nevis; and Uruguay.

As the global debate continues about how to tackle tax avoidance and tax evasion by wealthy individuals and global corporations, the idea of selling time in Ireland for €36,500 a day should be treated with great suspicion if not outright disgust. It would mean that if a super-wealthy person wants to pop over for a game of golf or to do business, they would no longer have to worry about triggering the automatic requirement to pay their full share of tax in Ireland that year. Instead, the price for not having to follow the same tax residency laws as everyone else is suggested at €36,500 a day.

Dr Nat O'Connor     @natpolicy

Nat O'Connor

Nat O’Connor is a member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS) and a Lecturer of Public Policy and Public Management in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University.

Previously Director of TASC, Nat also led the research team in Dublin’s Homeless Agency.

Nat holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin (2008) and an MA in Political Science and Social Policy form the University of Dundee (1998). Nat’s primary research interest is in how research-informed public policy can achieve social justice and human wellbeing. Nat’s work has focused on economic inequality, housing and homelessness, democratic accountability and public policy analysis. His PhD focused on public access to information as part of democratic policy making.


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