Friday, February 27, 2009

Groups challenge U2 tax move

Ireland's Caritas agency, Trocaire has joined Catholic missionary orders and other development organisations in an attack on U2 and singer Bono over the rock group's bid to shift its affairs to the Netherlands to avoid Irish tax.

Protesters have demonstrated outside the Department of Finance against U2's decision to move their tax affairs to the Netherlands to avoid paying tax on their royalties in Ireland, the Irish Times reports.

The protest was organised by the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI) which campaigns on issues related to the developing world.

The coalition contains such organisations as Concern Worldwide, Trócaire, Oxfam and various Catholic missionary orders.

U2 moved their publishing arm to the Netherlands in 2006 after the Government capped tax free earnings for artists at €250,000 ($A500,000). Previously, U2 had been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Ireland's tax free status for artist royalties.

The coalition met Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan who pointed out that the Government had abolished the Cinderella rule where people could say they had not spent a day in Ireland if they left by midnight.

"We have tax treaties with other countries that regulate where you pay tax. There is a problem with smaller countries that have to set up deliberate tax havens. We are raising that at EU level," the Minister said though he did not address the specific issue of U2's tax affairs. The band are resident in Ireland for tax purposes.

Bono impersonator Paul O'Toole reworked the lyrics of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For to mock the band's decision. "I know avoiding tax ain't fair/it's just because I'm a millionaire, I don't need to pay like you, no, I won't pay like you/because I still haven't learned about democracy."

The DDCI is following up the protest with the launch of an "international song contest" inviting re-worded versions of U2 classics to highlight the band's stance on tax.

DDCI coordinator Nessa ní Chasaíde said the decision to holding the protest outside the department of Finance was to highlight the fact that U2's tax avoidance measures deprives the Irish exchequer of taxation revenue that could be spent on development aid.

"Bono has championed the call for increases in aid to impoverished countries, yet in his personal life he is engaged in tax avoidance issues and it is tax avoidance that is undermining the possibility of developing countries fighting their way out of poverty," she said.

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(Source: CTHN)