This week as Prince William takes his place on the altar of Westminster Abbey, he might spare a thought for how the the next time he walks up that aisle, it will be to receive the British crown – when he will simultaneously become one of the country’s highest net worth individuals and tax exempt. Across the pond, the closest Irish equivalent, it seems, might be U2 frontman, Bono.
I was surprised to read this week that Bono was being drafted in (at enormous cost ) to write a song that Broadway producers hope might save the failing musical – Spiderman. Shame, I thought that Bono isn’t willing to contribute something similar to help sort out the failing economy/tragedy – Ireland.
You see, a bit like the British monarch, Bono doesn’t pay any taxes. For many years all artists in Ireland were exempt from income tax. Then a few years ago, the law changed. Under the new regime only the first €250,000 of artist earnings are exempt (which still covers most Irish artists), but thereafter they must pay taxes like everyone else. But not Bono.
For Bono and the other members of U2, who paid themselves €21 million in wages last year, the Irish exchequer still receives not a cent.
Because Bono has “gone Dutch”. By which I don’t mean he’s agreed to pay half, but that he’s agreed to pay precisely nothing. No sooner had Ireland announced the change than U2 moved their tax residency to Holland whose government still guarantees artists a 100% tax free income.
Now is there anything wrong with being ‘tax efficient”? I’d say it depends on where you stand morally and ethically with respect to social responsibility and social justice. If these things aren’t important to you, then off you go – go knock yourself out in Amsterdam or the Bahamas or whatever other tax exile you chose.
But when you’re the same guy who last week lobbied the Irish government to ‘do more’ to honour its debt relief commitments to Africa, then I have to take a rather different view.
I don’t care if your name is King WIll or King Bono, whether your business is holding sooper dooper weddings or writing songs about superheroes, until you pay taxes, then leave the decisions about where our money gets spent to those whose money it is.