Tale tekst v Naked capitalism je zanimivo branje o dramatičnem vzponu irskega gospodarstva. In razlog ni (kot govori popularna zgodba) v nizkih irskih davkih, ki so privlačili tuje investicije. Irska je imela nizko stopnjo davka na dobiček že od leta 1956 (najprej samo za dobičke od izvoza, od 1986 splošno 10% stopnjo za proizvodna podjetja, od 1987 10% stopnjo na finančna podjetja, z 2002 pa se je dvignila na 12.5%). Toda to ni dramatično dvignilo irske gospodarske rasti (glejte sliko spodaj).
Dramatična gospodarska rast je prišla oziroma “keltski tiger” se je prebudil šele po ustanovitvi Enotnega EU trga in sprostitvi kapitalskih tokov, ko je Irska ustanovila davčno oazo. En del zaslug je v davčnem zakonu iz leta 2012, ki je sicer povišal nominalno davčno stopnjo od dobička na 12.5%, toda hkrati uvedel davčne luknje in omogočil izkoriščanje transfernih cen (tipičen primer je “Double Irish“, glejte spodaj). V tem sistemu je Irska postala dom tisočev “kaselc podjetij” oziroma pralnica denarja tipa Lichtenstein in Luksemburg. Drugi del zaslug pa gre ustanovitvi Irskega finančnega centra (IFSC) – offshore finančni center “kot London, vendar z irskim davčnim sistemom” in “Wild west regulacijo“. To je privabilo mednarodne kapitalske tokove in pognalo kapitalske in nepremičninske balone. In seveda povzročilo kolaps.
Vir: Did Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate create the Celtic Tiger?, Fools’ Gold blog, March 10, 2015, and associated sources and links. Graph created by John Christensen and Nicholas Shaxson. (originalni vir:
Nekaj poudarkov iz teksta o Irski kot finančni oazi je navedeno spodaj. Kot boste videli, v tej zgodbi nastopajo največje svetovne multinacionalke (Apple, Google, Facebook…), banke (tudi in predvsem nemške), pa revizorsko-svetovalna podjetja (PriceWaterhouseCoopers…) in koruptivni politiki. Sledite pa tudi povezavam.
Eh, takšen je realni svet. Ki seveda dramatično odstopa od tega, kar piše v učbenikih in kar učimo študente glede koristnosti proste trgovine in prostega pretoka kapitala. V tem svetu proste trgovine in prostega pretoka kapitala pač nekateri izkoriščajo naivnost drugih in igrajo po sebi prilagojenih pravilih.
Sicer pa je to že zdavnaj naredila V. Britanija v prostotrgovinskem sporazumu s Portugalsko iz leta 1703 (Methuen treaty), ki sicer že 200 let služi kot vrhovni učbeniški primer koristi od proste trgovine (Ricardov model primerjalnih prednosti), toda njegov osnovni namen je bil v tem, da je z njim Anglija črpala zlato iz Portugalske. Kajti Portugalska nikoli ni bila sposobna v Anglijo izvoziti toliko vina, kot je v nasprotni smeri uvažala tekstilnih izdelkov. Razliko (trgovinski primanjkljaj) je seveda plačevala z neto odlivom zlata v Anglijo. Adam Smith je ta nateg sicer opisal v svoji knjigi Bogastvo narodov (1776), toda tega pasusa v knjigi nihče noče prebrati ali razumeti. Študentom pa tega seveda nihče ne omenja.
Tax Loopholes and Transfer Pricing
Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporation tax rate is well known, but less has been written about its role in providing prolific tax loopholes: a far more important offering for many large multinationals.
The key for multinationals is to make sure that the lion’s share of profits can escape that 12.5 percent tax rate by being shifted to a tax haven (or nowhere – see the Box) where they get taxed lightly or not at all. Ireland makes this particularly easy to do, not only because of the general laxity of its tax administration, but more specifically via transfer pricing tricks. Astonishingly, until 2010 Ireland had no meaningful transfer pricing legislation, allowing something of a Wild West free-for-all, which has since only been tightened up a little. This lax regime produced infamous wheezes such as the “Double Irish” tax scheme operated by the U.S. tech firms Facebook, Apple and Google (see p5, here.) All ) which have, as the graphic below illustrates, led to extremely low effective tax rates in Ireland for US multinationals.
Shady Shell Companies
Beyond these tax-structuring activities, Ireland – like many offshore jurisdictions – has also been happy to serve as an ask-no-questions incorporation centre for shady businesses. As the Irish Times reported in June 2013, one Dublin-based company incorporation business alone had set up some 2,000 shell companies, some of which have been found to have been involved in large-scale criminal activities around the world. The man behind the agency, Phil Burwell, said he had “no responsibility for the nominee directors or activities of the firms after they are incorporated.”
Box: Apple, Facebook, Google and the Double Irish
The “Double Irish” scheme relied on two Irish-incorporated companies: the first, taxable in Ireland, collects profits (say, from operations in Europe) but wipes them out by paying royalties to a second Irish-incorporated company tax resident in another tax haven like Bermuda or Cayman, which won’t tax them. In 2014 the Irish government, under international pressure, said it would phase out the Double Irish; new schemes are already in development.
A U.S. Senate investigation in 2013 found that the U.S. technology firm Apple had used the Double Irish in what U.S. Senator Carl Levin called the “holy grail of tax avoidance. . . magically, it’s neither here nor there”. These Irish-based entities were not taxable anywhere, enabling Apple to pay no tax on the lion’s share of its offshore profits. Citizens for Tax Justice in the U.S. estimated in 2015 that Apple would owe nearly $60 billion in U.S. taxes if it hadn’t stashed its profits offshore.
An Irish subsidiary at the heart of Facebook’s tax affairs funneled profits of €1.75 billion in 2012 to a pre-tax loss of €626,000 by paying mighty ‘expenses’ to another Irish Facebook subsidiary tax resident in Cayman. Similarly, Google escaped $2 billion a year in taxes using a “Double Irish” scheme via the Netherlands and Bermuda.
The Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC)
The second main leg in Ireland’s ‘offshore’ offer came with the birth of the Irish Financial Services Centre.
In the late 1970s a group of Irish officials, with the help of Wall Street offshore lawyer Bob Slater, sought to set up an offshore banking centre modelled on Bermuda. The Irish Central Bank rejected it, saying that it “smacked of a banana republic.” (p324)
Yet within a decade the concept had been revived, and was pushed aggressively through by a tiny group of insiders with little democratic consultation.
The biggest early driver of the IFSC project was the (now billionaire) stockbroker Dermot Desmond, formerly of Citibank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, who put forward the idea to a few key individuals at a meeting in Kitty O’Shea’s pub in Dublin. In 1985 he formally proposed the idea of a financial centre in Dublin to the government. Desmond’s stockbroking firm part-financed the full-scale feasibility study by PWC, and he also owned some of the original buildings that were later designated to the IFSC project. He then got together with stockbroker Michael Buckley, later to become Chief Executive of Allied Irish Bank, to co-write the relevant section of the manifesto for the dominant political party, Fianna Fáil, during the 1987 election campaign, with a promise of 7,500 full-time jobs within five years. Fianna Fáil was led by Desmond’s friend, the politician Charles Haughey (see box), and although the document asserted (p318) that it was “not oriented in any way towards the creation of a tax haven,” they all knew that the truth would be the opposite.
Haughey was returned as Taoiseach (head of government) in March 1987, and within two months the government had chosen the Custom House Dock site in Dublin to host the IFSC.
Perhaps the only detailed academic examination of Ireland’s regulatory laxity comes from Professor Jim Stewart of Trinity College, Dublin. The IFSC, he reveals, formed a core element in the toxic global “shadow banking” system that led to the global financial crisis. For example, hedge funds would typically be listed in Dublin, managed in London and domiciled in a classic tax haven like the Cayman Islands.
When the global financial crisis hit, many Dublin-listed structures collapsed. Germany’s Sachsen Bank, IKB, West LB and Hypo, for instance, required massive state aid after luxuriating in Dublin’s regulatory permissiveness. Hypo Bank was bailed out with €102 billion in German state loans and guarantees after it took over Ireland-registered Depfa Bank based in Dublin. In 2006 Depfa, which had a tiny sliver of just €2.98 billion in equity bootstrapping nearly €223 billion in gross assets, collapsed when its Irish subsidiary could not secure short-term funding. Later, the head of the German financial regulator Bafin said that the rescue of Hypo had “prevented a run on German banks and the collapse of the European finance system.” A Bear Stearns holding company, Bear Stearns Ireland Ltd., was similarly leveraged, with a ratio of one dollar of equity underpinning $119 in gross assets. Even so, almost no analyses of this and other episodes involving the likes of Lehman Brothers, AIG and others, has investigated the core role that Dublin played in the problems which subsequently emerged.
Ireland, it seems, had not been interested in tackling or even investigating the dangers. The Irish financial regulator has been quoted as saying that it had no responsibility for such entities: its remit extended only to banks headquartered in Ireland. If the relevant documents were provided to the regulator by 3 p.m., Stewart noted, a fund would be authorised by start of business the next day (a prospectus can run to 200 or more pages; it can hardly be assessed between 3 pm and the close of business at 5 pm.!) Even years after the global financial crisis, Ireland’s regulator says that financial-vehicle corporations such as those that helped bring Depfa down are not regulated: its role, it says, is to regulate firms but not specific financial products, and in 2013 it was reported that only two employees at the Central Bank oversee the entire trillion-dollar industry. Again, this denial of responsibility is a classic and deliberate “offshore” strategy.
Vir: , Naked capitalism