Belfast Telegraph

Closure threat for Irish tax loopholes

By Ed Carty

The Republic's much-maligned corporation tax is facing its stiffest test after a world-recognised think-tank set out far-reaching reforms to halt aggressive tax avoidance by big business.

The Paris-based OECD launched the first major international shift towards a single set of rules to force multinationals to pay fair and equal rates regardless of where they put up a brass plaque or register profits, patents or operations.

The aim is to close loopholes and thwart tax planners looking to exploit variations in tax regimes between two countries by shifting profits.

Northern Ireland business has been involved in a long-running campaign to reduce its rate of corporation tax to one closer to the Republic, in a bid to increase jobs and attract foreign companies.

However, it is expected that the fate of the campaign to give Northern Ireland its own tax-setting powers will not be confirmed by the Treasury until after the Scottish independence referendum vote tomorrow.

Ireland's base corporation tax rate of 12.5% has repeatedly been attacked by European politicians, most notably in France and Germany, as Irish officials sought to reduce the debt burden over a €64bn (£5bn) bank bailout.

The low rate is one of the key drivers of foreign direct investment into Ireland, although enterprise chiefs also promote Ireland's skilled, young, mobile and well-educated workforce.

Among the most criticised for their tax bills are the tech giants like Apple and Google which have elaborate arrangements flowing from having a number of international bases.

Last year at a US Senate sub-committee hearing, influential senators John McCain and Carl Levin claimed Ireland was a tax haven after it emerged Apple paid taxes of 2% on its foreign earnings in 2012.

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