I write in reference to the call for views globally on the review of the Irish Income Tax Act. I recently looked into Irish tax law and its effects on developing countries with particular focus on Africa. Although I have not published on this as yet I have compiled data that I believe will be of interest to the Irish government as it goes through its decision-making process.
Pattern of International Financial Flows Between Ireland and African Countries
Together with my colleagues we looked into the issue of flows out of Ireland using IMF data between 2009 and 2013 and what we see form an African perspective is while there was initial investment in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Mozambique and South Africa, in reality this seems to have decreased throughout other African countries and by 2013 the only countries predominantly receive flows are South Africa and Mozambique. This data would need to be cross referenced as against the Double Taxation Agreements in place between Ireland and African countries: Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa. This list does not include Uganda, Mozambique or even Mauritius where the flows seem to be predominant. In addition, there are Irish business associations in the following African countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. In addition, there is also Irish business in Ghana that does not show up at all. There is a disconnect between the flows of finance and the treaty base in place as well as potentially actual support on the ground.
The Irish Spillover Report and Impact in Africa
Last year, the Department of Finance released “spillover” analysis of the potential impact of Irish tax policy, including the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, on developing nations. In the report, Michael Noonan commended the State for “taking a lead” in such research and thus showing its “full commitment” and fostering “a trusting relationship between the developed and developing world”. However, this document failed to analyze the implications of the State’s 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate not only through the lens of globalization but also through human rights. As a result, it did not unpack the subsequent knock-on effects that Ireland’s tax laws, policies and regulations are having on the on people in developing nations. As the figure below illustrates there are interlinkages between actions and laws in one states with inevitable spillovers in others and all states going forward should be at minimum aware of this.
Traditionally, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank have always recommended between 20 and 25 per cent corporate income tax. The World Trade Organization recommends 15-20 per cent and has since revised upwards to 20 per cent. But in Ireland your rate is at 12.5 per cent. If you sign agreements like DTAs with African countries based on residence then the taxes you will collect are 12.5% but the amount lost in developing country from the Irish business that is operating is 30%. However, this minimum recommended rate is based on the economics principle of cost-benefit analysis and the idea is that on average the amount you’re taking is enough to maintain the services that you’re granting, and 12.5 per cent doesn’t cover that. In addition, in a globalized world, by having a tax rate of 12.5 per cent, you are destroying the potential of developing countries to maintain their 25-35 per cent rates so that they can start becoming financially self-sufficient as businesses compare tax rates instead of the real competition which includes: political stability,
Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, last year also warned of the human rights implications on developing nations of excessively low corporate income tax rates. Speaking at a Christian Aid conference in Dublin, he warned that the State’s 12.5 per rate had descended into a type of mantra and that “mantras are simply slogans that are repeated unthinkingly”. He said policies that gave large multinationals “a free pass on tax” were especially damaging to developing countries which rely heavily on investment from multinational corporations. “The 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate and the willingness of Ireland to countenance a wide array of special arrangements designed to attract inward investment and make itself an attractive financial hub have become almost a defining characteristic of the society,” said Alston.