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Bono pay up!
June 27, 2011 5:05 PM   Subscribe

U2 lead singer Bono is well-known for his charitable works. The band however seems a bit more mercenary in their business affairs, moving from low tax Ireland to lower-tax Netherlands in 2006. Some accuse the band of hypocrisy, and have attempted a protest at the Glastonbury festival.[prev.]
posted by wilful (69 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did he disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
posted by ColdChef at 5:14 PM on June 27, 2011 [35 favorites]


I wonder if this means they've finally found what they were looking for.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fucking ponderous, man.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:27 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, if Bono wasn't an activist, this would be less shameful? A protest against hypocrisy - how wonderfully productive.
posted by davebush at 5:28 PM on June 27, 2011


They are hypocrites because they want to pay less taxes? Well, whatever I guess. The question is what do they do with the money they save and is more beneficial to the greater good. I don't know a shit ton about how much money they put into charitable efforts, but I would hazard to guess that based on how often Bono's name is tied to various humantarian projects that it is a wash at the very worst.
posted by holdkris99 at 5:31 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Show business baby, ain't show friends.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:32 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


They can't deliver tax returns to a place where the streets have no name.

(but seriously, guys, pay some taxes. Ireland's in enough trouble as it is...)

posted by spoobnooble at 5:33 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Never expected this from the greatest band on the planet :( I don't ever want them to hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me again.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:33 PM on June 27, 2011


moving from low tax Ireland to lower-tax Netherlands

I will follow...
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:34 PM on June 27, 2011


I guess the point is, tax avoidance is amongst the biggest curses in the developing world. If Bono is so deeply concerned about the developing world, his actions, to not avoid taxes, ought to accord with his stated concerns.

Here's what JK Rowling had to say about the issue:
I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug
posted by wilful at 5:36 PM on June 27, 2011 [154 favorites]


This is why you can't negotiate with tax terrorists.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:37 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh lord, if I had anything
Anything I'd all, I'd give it to you put it in a tax shelter
posted by scody at 5:39 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


JK Rowling is a mench.
posted by mojohand at 5:40 PM on June 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


People that present themselves to the public under an assumed name usually turn out to be assholes. Especially if it is a verb or a prepositional phrase.

I saw it coming.
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:42 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh hey wait
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Didn't we just have a "Let's beat up on U2" thread? Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining.
posted by Decani at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


He should be peelin' off those dollar bills, slapping them down ... one hundred, two hundred.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


There is even a wikipedia list of tax exiles that includes Noel Coward, The Two Ronnies, Pink Floyd and others.

It's also worth recalling Hotblack Desiato who spent a year dead for tax reasons.
posted by sien at 5:49 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Decani, a possibly minorly interesting thing about this is that Bono is implying, if not stating directly, that it's the other greedy bastards in the band that are responsible for this. If it was up to Saint Bono (sorry, Sir Paul), he'd give it all away. Or something like that.
posted by wilful at 5:56 PM on June 27, 2011


Bono can spend it better than the Irish government. He won't be bailing out any bankers.
posted by blargerz at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


J.K. Rowling is cooler than Bono.
posted by fullerine at 6:12 PM on June 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


Looking for tax shelters actually makes me respect the boys more. Bono/U2's sanctimonious tendencies aside, their charitable involvements seem admirable enough. This is not quite an instance of some rich guys saying, "Fuck you, I got mine!", as much as some folks feeling entitled enough to demand, "Fuck you, gimme yours!"
posted by 2N2222 at 6:18 PM on June 27, 2011


Did he disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

One pound
One buck
One Euro, Bono:
What the fuck?
One quid
We get to split it
Leaves for the Netherlands
Dublin don't get... shit
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:28 PM on June 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yet the original post mentions Bono's "charitable works" without the slightest hint of irony.
posted by Yakuman at 6:48 PM on June 27, 2011


Bono looks down from high atop his castle at the poor the hungry and the needy and feels for them.
posted by pianomover at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best Bono story ever: my friend's husband lived near him in Ireland in the 80s or early 90s. One day, walking past the house, he spies Bono raking leaves on the lawn...while wearing leather pants. His comment? "I don't think he HAD any other pants!"
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:55 PM on June 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think it's necessary to weigh what is in effect a business decision versus the benefits U2 has brought to Ireland over the past 30 years. I'm pretty sure U2 is responsible for considerable economic development in that country - it's not as though they're total jerks.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:28 PM on June 27, 2011


I'm pretty sure U2 is responsible for considerable economic development in that country

Don't forget that time he flew his hat first class to Italy (warning: The Sun)
posted by smithsmith at 7:41 PM on June 27, 2011


Ricky Gervais goes to Africa (Or does he? And what's Bono doing there?)
posted by vidur at 7:51 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it's necessary to weigh what is in effect a business decision versus the benefits U2 has brought to Ireland over the past 30 years. I'm pretty sure U2 is responsible for considerable economic development in that country - it's not as though they're total jerks.

Sheesh, KokoRyu, are you being ironic? I sure as shit hope so, because that's exactly the kind of bullshit line that thousands of multinationals and other huge profit-raking companies make everywhere when they base their businesses in Delaware, or the Bahamas, or a Channel Island. It fucking disgusts me that anyone would put the needs of an abstract organisation or their own personal wealth over their responsibilities as citizens and the wellbeing of millions.
posted by smoke at 8:31 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


It fucking disgusts me that anyone would put the needs of an abstract organisation

If by abstract organization you mean a bunch of real employees who work hard, and real working people who invest their retirement funds in the stock.
posted by blargerz at 9:09 PM on June 27, 2011


It fucking disgusts me that anyone would put the needs of an abstract organisation or their own personal wealth over their responsibilities as citizens and the wellbeing of millions.

I get that everyone needs to pay taxes, and I agree that it's shitty to try to get out of paying any. But Bono is not the only artist doing this, and it just seems like it would make more sense to go after any of the ones who don't regularly do charitable works.

Although he does have a lot to apologize for after Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.
posted by misha at 9:47 PM on June 27, 2011


real working people who invest their retirement funds in the stock.

And what about the citizens who don't have retirement funds, or don't invest in the stock? Where does the tax revenue that would have supported them but is now feathering multinational corporate nests come from?

Bono is not the only artist doing this, and it just seems like it would make more sense to go after any of the ones who don't regularly do charitable works.

You can walk and chew gum at the same time. U2 are far and away the most profitable bands in Ireland doing this. If someone digs up the others, by all means lets protest them, too.
posted by smoke at 10:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Charity is giving your money to people you want to give it too. Taxes is the government taking the money you earned (by force if necessary) and giving it to people who didn't work for it. Good for U2 for wanting to keep more of the money they've earned.
posted by rdhogan7713 at 10:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Taxes is the government taking the money you earned (by force if necessary) and giving it to people who didn't work for it. "

And what about education, housing, roads, infrastructure? I am amazed at how many people seem to think that taxes only go on handouts.
posted by greenhornet at 10:29 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


And what about the citizens who don't have retirement funds, or don't invest in the stock? Where does the tax revenue that would have supported them but is now feathering multinational corporate nests come from?

It isn't as if U2 isn't paying taxes. They are. Their publishing operation is paying taxes in Netherlands instead of Ireland. If you argue they should be paying in Ireland instead, well, OK, I guess. But it's not clear they owe Ireland that kind of fidelity. It's not as if Ireland owns them.

More disturbing is that it isn't even the government so much as some third parties who seem to think they have a right to a slice of U2's earnings. Apparently, for all the charitable work you do, as a reward you get to have folks off the street demand more as a result, because they feel they deserve it.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:39 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I was a betting man, I'd say that account's not long for this world.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:41 PM on June 27, 2011


It is a bit ironic for the Irish to complain about this. Didn't they deliberately lower their corporate tax rate to attract businesses to move there from other countries?
posted by atrazine at 12:02 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get that everyone needs to pay taxes, and I agree that it's shitty to try to get out of paying any. But Bono is not the only artist doing this, and it just seems like it would make more sense to go after any of the ones who don't regularly do charitable works.


Not at all. Bono is continuously suggesting to other people/governments how we should be spending our money.

I think it's perfectly legitimate for us to have some transparency about what he does with his.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you argue they should be paying in Ireland instead, well, OK, I guess. But it's not clear they owe Ireland that kind of fidelity. It's not as if Ireland owns them.

Yeah, I feel like that about American outsourcing to China. Americans continually whine about multinationals shipping all of their labour off to China, but it's not as though America *owns* those companies.

Yet there are apparently millions of Americans who feel entitled to over-inflated salaries, despite their inability to compete in a free labour market.

Ah well. I'm off to Primark.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:36 AM on June 28, 2011



Not at all. Bono is continuously suggesting to other people/governments how we should be spending our money.

I think it's perfectly legitimate for us to have some transparency about what he does with his.


I agree, Bono is no stranger to telling other folks what to do with their money. That kind of makes him a sanctimonious finger wagger, even if he does accomplish some good charitable things.

But that doesn't actually grant us any rights into what he does with his money. Even though transparency isn't really a big issue here. It's just a taste of his own medicine.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:41 AM on June 28, 2011


I pay what I’m required to pay, not a penny more, not a penny less. If anybody in this country doesn’t minimise their tax, they want their heads read because, as a government, I can tell you you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra.

Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer being quizzed by a 1991 Senate Select Committee
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:08 AM on June 28, 2011


I've already given you the answer on this subject, I have told you that I pay whatever tax I am required to pay under the law, not a penny more, not a penny less, and the suggestion that I am trying to evade tax, which is what you're putting forward, I find highly offensive and I don't intend to cooperate with you in the blackening of my character.

Same guy, same Senate hearing.

His opening Salvo is funny, too. When asked by the Senator Chairman to state his full name and the capacity in which he appeared, he testily replied:

Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer. Reluctantly.

Famous enough performance that it's on the tubes.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:21 AM on June 28, 2011


Perhaps artistes based in a lower-rate tax regime should be subject to a top-up performance tax before they can play in, say, Ireland. They ought to welcome it, because it would lift from them the burden of having to worry about where to base their operations and make all these complex changes with all the attendant stress and accountancy fees.

I suppose the problem is that then they might not play in Ireland at all, and that would be just dreadful.
posted by Segundus at 1:24 AM on June 28, 2011


The Rolling Stones did this a while ago.
posted by knile at 1:33 AM on June 28, 2011


I just recently learned that Bono owns 1.5% of Facebook. Do with this information what you will.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:43 AM on June 28, 2011


DecemberBoy -

It's Elevation, Bono's investment company, so not exclusively him, but basically he's not skint, however big a hole he's dug with Spiderman.
posted by DanCall at 1:54 AM on June 28, 2011


From one of the links:

Wealthy individuals have put about $11.5 trillion in tax havens around the world, according to a 2005 paper by the London- based Tax Justice Network. Unpaid taxes on those assets could amount to $255 billion, the paper said.

Imagine I am a five year old child, and explain to me: why is this even legal?

And, where is the EU on this?
posted by bitteschoen at 3:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry to disappoint, but it is certainly my impression that Bono mostly lives in New York.

And who wouldn't if they were that rich?
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:27 AM on June 28, 2011


Imagine I am a five year old child, and explain to me: why is this even legal?

Tax evasion is illegal.

The income tax in the US is much lower than in The Netherlands, are all 300 million or so Americans tax crooks evading Dutch income taxes?
posted by atrazine at 5:22 AM on June 28, 2011


The income tax in the US is much lower than in The Netherlands, are all 300 million or so Americans tax crooks evading Dutch income taxes?

Sometimes, you see a strawman so huge you have to respect the balls of the person who put it forward.
posted by Jehan at 5:37 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The income tax in the US is much lower than in The Netherlands, are all 300 million or so Americans tax crooks evading Dutch income taxes?

FINALLY! Someone gets it!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:40 AM on June 28, 2011


I started rethinking my U2 fandom when I realized that Bono had remained silent on the Iraq war so he could stay in good with the Bush administration and not endanger any of his Africa money. And then I saw them in concert, and Bono had an American flag lining (literally!) his jacket, and was milking the crowd's 911-related emotions to an obscene degree. It plain reeked of manipulation and calculation.

Plus their music sucks now. It sounds more like something my parents would listen to.

I miss the mirrorball lemon and the Macphisto horns :(
posted by erinfern at 5:48 AM on June 28, 2011


Sometimes, you see a strawman so huge you have to respect the balls of the person who put it forward.

Haha yes thanks Jehan for my first laugh in a lousy day, seriously, that is the most delightful and elegant response to a strawman I've ever seen. Can I recycle it? :)

And now seriously, in general, I have read some articles on this back then as well and the part I don't get, the part that does make me feel like a five year old, is that I really don't understand how this is doable in a legal sense.

In the EU, pretty much everywhere in the EU, if you are an employee, or a self-employed professional aka one person company, or have a small company, well, you pay taxes in your country of residence, right? the EU even has mutual agreements between member states so expats working abroad don't get taxed twice if their new residence is in another country. If this category of people which pretty much covers say 90% of the working population wanted to pay less taxes legally, they'd have to legally move the entirety of their person, or of their company and person, to the other country. Country of residence is usually defined as country where you spend at least 183 days a year. Residence for a company is where it operates, of course.

Why does this not apply to the owners of big companies? they can go on living physically anywhere they choose, but can choose where to pay their taxes?

That five year old in me (or, rather, the actual-age-me who doesn't have a good knowledge of this stuff!) really wants to know, why on earth is this legal, and for less than 10% of the population? And most of all, how come this is legal within the EU? this is not about offshore companies in Panama. This is Ireland vs. Netherlands. They're both in the EU. What's the EU doing about this? How can be in the interests of the EU to keep allowing this sort of thing? Doesn't it mess up even more the complex dynamics of different economies of different member states, especially given all the big bad things that have happened recently and/or are happening and/or are about to happen to the collapsing economies of some member states?

This is my general question, it goes well beyond Bono and U2, I don't care as much about pointing the finger there, as about understanding why on earth this is even possible. Technically. U2 are just an example, I guess there are a lot more and not just among artists or musicians.

And as an example, it makes my head hurt. As far as I know, all members of U2 still have their legal residence in Dublin. That means they do still pay local taxes. But this company of theirs, the one making the most profits, is now in the NL. How? Is the NL company still in their names? How do the profits get back to them in Dublin after being subjected to the lesser NL taxes? wouldn't they be paying taxes on re-importing those profits from the NL? or do they just have bank accounts in the NL and Dutch credit cards? how the hell does it work?

...Should I move this to AskMe?
posted by bitteschoen at 7:56 AM on June 28, 2011


I'm still weirded out by the fact that U2 and the Clash are exact contemporaries, both starting in 1976. I wonder if there's an alternate universe where people are griping about the Clash sticking around too long (and Joe Strummer using his high public profile to harangue us about third world debt), while wondering what an old U2 would have been like if Bono and the Edge could only have worked it out.

And I really, really wonder what the Strummer/Jones Broadway musical about the Blue Beetle is like.
posted by COBRA! at 8:06 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cobra, I would dearly love to see that alternate universe.
posted by missix at 9:16 AM on June 28, 2011


I would like to hear the version of Rattle and Hum with Mikey Dread instead of B.B. King.
posted by box at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011


Bono has always been about getting his, but people just saw what they wanted to see. Case in point: One. One is a song that has been played to death, and has been used in so many different ways to signal a sort of positive relationship motif. And yet. The passage that ColdChef so perfectly riffed on in this thread's opening comment is about... well, let's parse it:

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love,
And you want me to go without.

Clearly, this is saying:

Quit complaining that I insisted you swallow, although in hindsight, eating asparagus first was a dick move. But it's not like you aren't already a cocksucker.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


One is a song that has been played to death, and has been used in so many different ways to signal a sort of positive relationship motif.

Only by people dumb enough to think "Every Breath You Take" or "Better Man" are sweet relationship songs.
posted by kmz at 11:18 AM on June 28, 2011


Only by people dumb enough to think "Every Breath You Take" or "Better Man" are sweet relationship songs.

Although... even though Bono has refered to One as a "breakup song", I note that even he used it to name his big charity the One Campaign, so it's not like U2 doesn't trot One out as essentially the exact feel-good ballad that it was never intended to be. So I suppose at least some of the listener confusion is on them.

As for people dumb enough to think "Every Breath You Take" or "Better Man" are sweet relationship songs, I'm going to guess we're talking about roughly 95% of the population. Same people who thought "Born in the USA" was about patriotism.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2011


And now seriously, in general, I have read some articles on this back then as well and the part I don't get, the part that does make me feel like a five year old, is that I really don't understand how this is doable in a legal sense.

You can always ask The Edge, who says in one of the linked articles, it's "a very complex business". But it most likely is legal even if you need a flock of accountants and tax lawyers to understand why.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:44 PM on June 28, 2011


One is a breakup song, but it's written from the standpoint of someone who is pleading for recognition of the universal human experience by another party who is rejecting that notion.

(It's a very complex song, and can mean a lot of different things. It works really well as a statement by a gay person toward someone who is expressing aggressive homophobic hate.)

As far as people not comprehending song lyrics go, the absolute winner for this was a wedding reception I went to once where the big bride/groom first dance song was "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad".

It was so embarrassing and felt like a bad omen, like giving someone a knife for a wedding gift or moving a broom to a new house or whatever bad omen superstition you can think of. Only in this case, it was chosen by the supposedly happy couple.

I have no idea if they're still together, but damn. It still makes me feel slightly ill and prickly all over when I think about it. How clueless do you have to be?
posted by hippybear at 3:56 PM on June 28, 2011


That might just be the best wedding story ever!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:39 PM on June 28, 2011


Metafilter: it works really well as a statement by a gay person toward someone who is expressing aggressive homophobic hate.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amen.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:26 PM on June 28, 2011


Seriously, though... Bill Gates is about 1000% more transparent with his money than Bono... he's far more charitable... and he's not evading taxes, at least on that level.

Does U2 owe their fans some kind of reasonable explanation of why they evade taxes, and what they're doing / going to do with their money instead? I would argue yes, it would certainly be nice, considering that the band probably has over a billion dollars stashed away by now. By not doing so, they're inviting a lot of deserved criticism.

Let's flip the coin here. If Bono fought for a new government policy that would eradicate disease and hunger in the third world, only to see the policy failing because wealthy corporations and individuals paid only "what is required under the law", after working every possible loophole... and if the local governments of those countries getting assistance worked every possible angle to legally funnel/divert the money that was raised through their corrupt government bureaucracies... well, do you think Bono would be happy and stop there, and not suggest that someone wasn't paying their fair share?

Seriously, if U2 were a typically structured corporation, their PR people would be working overtime to change their image to not come off as a bunch of callous hypocrites, who don't even pay the taxes needed to support the air traffic controllers that allow them their jet-set, carbon-belching lifestyles.

Have no doubt... they *ARE* a corporation. A very big one, in fact. They just aren't one that is remotely accountable to the public.
posted by markkraft at 8:23 PM on June 28, 2011


You can always ask The Edge, who says in one of the linked articles, it's "a very complex business". But it most likely is legal even if you need a flock of accountants and tax lawyers to understand why.

Yeah, I imagine I would not be able to understand how it works, even if their own accountants explained it to me over a pint of draught personally pulled by the Edge straight from one of U2's own bars in Dublin. Ah I'd probably just blabber on about how much I loved U2 back in the days and ask Edge to go on go on go on show me one of your guitars...

It's not "most likely legal" though, it's absolutely 100% legal, that's exactly the part I find puzzling and maddening, because it's the kind of thing that is 100% illegal for 90% of the EU population.

I'm not bothered only by U2 doing this as much as the EU allowing this. This is a perfectly legal tax shelter loophole within EU borders. That's what sounds mad, unacceptable, insult and injury.

U2 are not "evading taxes" (nevermind they do still own and control lots of businesses still located in Ireland so would be paying local taxes on those) - they are doing something perfectly legal. The fact this is legal is what should be challenged in the first place, because it's being taken advantage by a LOT of other companies - quoting from a paper (PDF) from a Dutch organisation:
Many corporations based in the EU or elsewhere have a presence in the Netherlands primarily for fiscal benefits. Examples of companies that have their ultimate or intermediate headquarters in the Netherlands primarily for this reason include IKEA, Mittal Steel, EADS (parent company of Airbus), Nike, Trafigura, and Fujitsu-Siemens
And the problem with this is:
It affects both the capacity of developing country governments to supply essential
services to their populations and the capacity of developed country governments to provide finance for development in the form of debt relief and Official Development Assistance (ODA). Hence, the Dutch tax policy is clearly inconsistent with the policy on development cooperation. Furthermore, it results in a shift of the tax burden to other sources of income such as labour and reduces possibilities for smaller companies to compete with multinational corporations. The tax haven features of the Netherlands also facilitate money laundering and attract companies with a dubious reputation.
People protesting only against U2 or going on about it to point out Bono's hipocrisy are not seeing the forest for the trees. The forest is the problem.

What's also personally maddening to me is, the EU and EU individual member states have tons of internal regulations for the ordinary idiots like us, and you can get into all sorts of burocracy trouble even for unintentionally failing to properly navigate the complexities of different fiscal systems when you move from one country to another, and for tiny income sums, but hey, if you control a dozen different companies and can pay enough lawyers and tax accountants to find the best loopholes for you, you don't even need to go set up offhsore companies in the Cayman Islands, you can do it right here, with the EU's blessing. How stupid is that? And especially now from the point of view of a EU dealing with failing economies that need bailing out??

In one of the older articles from the time of the move, the then Irish Finance minister said: "We have tax treaties with other countries that regulate where you pay tax. There is a problem with smaller countries that have to set up deliberate tax havens. We are raising that at EU level". Well? It's been years and doesn't seem they've raised that very forcefully...

(Then again, the Irish government also have themselves to blame, they allowed all sorts of huge tax exemptions for artists and corporations and then oops suddenly realised they were too huge so changed the law, maybe they should have had a more reasonable policy from the start... They fucked up their country's economy so bad, and what they did with the exemption for artists and the belated and partial correction to it - after which U2 moved their publishing company abroad - is one tiny part of it. )
posted by bitteschoen at 12:12 AM on June 29, 2011


In one of the older articles from the time of the move, the then Irish Finance minister said: "We have tax treaties with other countries that regulate where you pay tax. There is a problem with smaller countries that have to set up deliberate tax havens. We are raising that at EU level". Well? It's been years and doesn't seem they've raised that very forcefully...

Emphasis mine. Ireland is such a country. They poached a bunch of corporate HQs and operations from other EU countries with their low corporation taxes. Of course they haven't raised it forcefully! The Germans and the French have been howling about low Irish taxes for years, they want more tax harmonisation so that companies stop moving to low tax countries like Ireland.


Why does this not apply to the owners of big companies? they can go on living physically anywhere they choose, but can choose where to pay their taxes?

This is true of anyone with shares in a limited company though. Even owners of small private corporations, but those are often owner-run so in practice they can't.

This is my general question, it goes well beyond Bono and U2, I don't care as much about pointing the finger there, as about understanding why on earth this is even possible. Technically. U2 are just an example, I guess there are a lot more and not just among artists or musicians.

And as an example, it makes my head hurt. As far as I know, all members of U2 still have their legal residence in Dublin. That means they do still pay local taxes. But this company of theirs, the one making the most profits, is now in the NL. How? Is the NL company still in their names? How do the profits get back to them in Dublin after being subjected to the lesser NL taxes? wouldn't they be paying taxes on re-importing those profits from the NL? or do they just have bank accounts in the NL and Dutch credit cards? how the hell does it work?


Ok, so here's how it works. The Netherlands isn't generally low tax, but royalties from IP (like music) are treated favourably for tax purposes.
They set up a company in The Netherlands which owns the rights to their music, this income is barely taxed because it comes from the rights to IP. If they transfer money to themselves from the company then they have to pay tax on that income in their place of residence as income tax. So they do pay tax on whatever profits they bring back to wherever they live, Ireland, the US or whatever.

They definitely don't just withdraw money through a debit card from a Dutch account, if they did that without reporting it as taxable income it would be tax fraud.

So what's the point of doing this if they have to pay income tax anyway? The point is that they make way more than they actually use. So if Bono makes $10M from royalties but only needs $2M to live on, he only pays income tax on the $2M. The rest stays in the holding company.
Crucially, the rights to the royalties can pass nearly tax free to their heirs.
posted by atrazine at 12:51 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


atrazine, thank you for the explanation! that helps clear up my confusion. I am totally ignorant of how holding companies work as a workaround the fiscal residence requirements but yeah at least it's clearer to me how they get their money back and what kind of Irish taxes they are avoiding.

Crucially, the rights to the royalties can pass nearly tax free to their heirs.

Ah... that makes sense.

And yes oh god yes, Ireland and their low tax policies, let's not even go there... Doesn't even seem the government has learnt the lesson even now.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:01 AM on June 29, 2011


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