U2 FRONTMAN BONO has defended the band’s tax affairs and its controversial decision to move its publishing arm to the Netherlands seven years ago, insisting the band pays “a lot of tax”.
Speaking in an in-depth interview with Gay Byrne on RTÉ’s ’The Meaning of Life’ programme, the rock star insisted that the band is “tax sensible” about its affairs just like every other business.
He said it is “very hard for Irish people to be critical” about the band’s tax affairs and claimed that he helped bring companies like Google and Facebook to Ireland where they benefit from tax arrangements for multinationals investing here including the low corporate tax rate.
“We live on a small rock in the North Atlantic and we would be underwater were it not for very clever people working in government and in the Revenue who made tax competitiveness a central part of Irish economic life,” he said.
“And that’s the reason we have companies like Google or Facebook – and indeed I helped bring those companies to Ireland. So it’s more than churlish for Irish people to say ‘Oh well, we don’t want an Irish company involved in that stuff – but we do want everyone else.’”
U2 moved the publishing arm of their business to the Netherlands in 2006 after the government capped the amount of artists’ income exempt from tax at €250,000.
That decision recently drew comment from Social Protection Minister Joan Burton who noted that the band had moved to the Netherlands because it was “far more attractive in tax terms for their companies and for their organisations” than arrangements in Ireland.
Bono questioned why U2 could not be “tough in business” saying: ”Why is it because I am involved in what some people think are idealistic things… why can’t U2 be tough in business?
“This thing about the “warm fuzzy feeling”? I’d like people to get over that. Because that’s not who I am. I am tough.
The singer described himself as “intellectually rigorous”and said that U2′s tax affairs are “in the spirit of the law”.
“I may sing from a very private and intimate place and I make art but I’m tough-minded and I’m intellectually rigorous, I hope,” he said. “I think U2′s tax business is our own business. And I think it’s not just to the letter of the law it’s to the spirit of the law.”