Belfast Telegraph

Energy firms face offshore tax hike

Energy companies face a doubling of tax rates to 80% for tapping into huge oil and gas fields off Ireland under proposed new rules.

The Government has been urged to hike offshore levies while radically improving work with local communities to prevent a repeat of the bitter Corrib dispute.

A committee examining the industry has called for a sliding scale of taxes from 40 to 80% for speculators that strike it rich.

The Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture said the best practice of countries like Norway should be looked at before a new regime was adopted.

Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail TD, said hiking taxes while attracting investment was a balancing act.

"(We want) the best balance between attracting in investment and making sure that if there is a hydrocarbon field out there, that the Irish people benefit from that field," he said.

The cross-party committee said that Ireland's exploration and extraction tax rates were too generous compared with other countries, with some oil and gas companies paying as little as 25% depending on their profit ratio. The existing top end of the tax scale is 40%.

In 2005, Ireland was ranked lowest in government share of oil field profits with 25%, compared with Norway - deemed to be the model of how the exploration industry can be managed - at 75.72%. Nigeria topped the list, raking in a profit share of 112.08%.

Fine Gael TD Andrew Doyle, chairman of the group, said the proposed taxation system was "fair and equitable".

He also insisted it would not discourage potential investment, because the taxes suggested the regime in Ireland would still be much lower or at least in line with other countries.

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