SOCIAL PROTECTION minister Joan Burton has questioned the ability of tax exiles to have loyalty to the Irish State – while also arguing that too many tax loopholes exist to allow the wealthiest in society to avoid their contributions.
In a speech to the MacGill summer school in Co Donegal this evening, Burton argued that the State needed to be vigilant and ensure that its tax code was just, and seen to be just, so that it could command the confidence of the people.
She argued that the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, for example, was widely accepted because it was seen to bring benefits to the public through the creation of employment by foreign firms choosing to base themselves in Ireland.
But other aspects of the system, she said, could not command similar public support – because of the “many shelters that enable very many wealth people to escape paying the share of their income that is needed”.
Said the minister:
Personally, I cannot reconcile the lax rules on residence that facilitate tax exiles with any notion of loyalty to the State.
Burton said she believed Ireland’s current income tax rates were appropriate – and that the income tax on high earners, plus their Universal Social Charge contributions, constituted a high enough burden on top earners.
This was offset, she argued, “by far too many opportunities for some groups and individuals to escape the level of contribution that can reasonably be expected from those in their position.”
Pointing to US billionaire Warren Buffett – and his calls for an increase in income tax in his own country – Burton argued that other countries expected a far higher level of tax compliance than Ireland.
“The extent to which we pay our taxes is a measure of our loyalty to our state, and the extent to which the state returns our commitment with quality services is the measure of the state’s loyalty to its citizens,” Burton said.
The minister later questioned the role of political language in fostering public cynicism in politics, using the words “inappropriate” and “disappointed” as examples of the muted language which did not reflect public anger at certain matters.