Dec. 5, 2017, 6:32 a.m.
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Since 2015, there has been a “level shift” in corporate tax receipts flowing to the exchequer, with most of the increased revenue coming from a just handful of firms in the technology sector.
The latest exchequer returns for November show business tax continues to defy expectations, and by some way. So far this year, corporation tax has generated €7.65 billion for the Government – some 5.5 per cent, or €396 million higher than the official projection.
Perhaps more significantly, the figure is also 8.4 per cent up on what was a strong 2016, when the tax generated €7.4 billion over the 12 months.
Undoubtedly, multinational returns are propping up the numbers and, with just 10 big companies accounting for about 40 per cent of total receipts, the stellar growth comes with a serious health warning about the certainty and predictability of such a tax base .
A recent study of our corporation tax code by economist Séamus Coffey, who is also chairman of the Government’s Fiscal Advisory Council, has assured the Department of Finance that the current upswing could be relied upon until at least 2020.
Nonetheless, the figures highlighting Ireland’s peculiar reliance on a small number of big multinationals, points to a highly volatile position in itself.
The recent increase in rceipts is a reflection of the “onshoring” of intellectual property amid a global clampdown on multinational tax avoidance, which ironically was once highlighted as a threat to Ireland’s tax code. Might the current worry here over President Donald Trump’s plan for the US tax code also turn out to be a positive for Ireland?
Grant Thornton’s Peter Vale seems to think so.
In his commentary on the latest exchequer data, he says: “It is possible that the US tax changes may even bring forward some of the recent “onshoring” of intellectual property, which could have further benefits for Ireland, particularly given the recent trend for IP transfers to be linked to jobs.”