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Render unto Bono
February 4, 2007 4:01 AM   Subscribe

Ethically in my opinion, Bono’s tax arrangements are entirely inconsistent with his calls upon government to support anti-poverty drives,” said Richard Murphy, one of three co-authors of the SOMO report (.pdf) on Dutch tax shelters. “You cannot be demanding that resources be allocated to anti-poverty drives and then deny those resources to government.”
posted by four panels (86 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
A familiar paradox about leftist celebrities in the entertainment industry is that their embrace of progressivism almost never includes a wholehearted embrace of progressive taxation
...
Bono, the rock star and campaigner against Third World debt, is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he's reducing tax payments that could help fund that aid.

Leftist celebrities are all about spending other peoples' money. Why is it hypocritical to take that to its logical conclusion?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:24 AM on February 4, 2007


Austalia's richest man (until he died in late 2005), Kerry Packer, was famous for paying next to no tax. He faced a government inquiry and famously said:

"Of course I am minimising my tax. And 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!"

Maybe Bono feels similarly.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:30 AM on February 4, 2007


Eh, hoverboards? Except in the sense that Tim Robbins makes money through movies, which were paid for by the money of cinema-goers, etc, what do you mean? Everyone's money came from someone else, unless you happen to be the Fed or the Royal Mint or similar. What nonsense!

And yes, Bono can get stuffed too. His daft campaigns have achieved nothing but empty promises and a lot of dead salmon for the canapes. He's no better than Sting and Geldof and the rest of that useless crowd.

Thom Yorke, on the other hand..
posted by imperium at 4:31 AM on February 4, 2007


They are just using mysterious ways that are even better than the real thing to elevate their silver and gold by taking a trip through your wire until the end of the world. Trying to throw your arms around the world is even better than the real thing because you aren't running to stand still.
posted by srboisvert at 4:44 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I say rejoice, srboisvert.
posted by psmealey at 4:52 AM on February 4, 2007


imperium, what I mean is that Bono is not calling for charity, he's calling for increased government spending on aid. He's not volunteering his own ample private fortune, he's asking taxpayers to cough up the dough. He's saying he knows how to spend your money more ethically than you do, but he knows you might not see it that way, so he's getting your money via the government, who will take it from you regardless of your ethical views.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:56 AM on February 4, 2007


I think he should give all his money to Negativland.

Just wanted to be the first to get Negativland into this thread...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:12 AM on February 4, 2007


He should be putting his money where his mouth is--it's shameful that wants our tax money sent away to help others, but not his own.
posted by amberglow at 5:14 AM on February 4, 2007


hoverboards, I half see what you mean. I don't think there's anything wrong with this being government-led, though. There's no way this can be sorted by a few charitable acts. The problems of Africa, in particular, aren't going to be fixed with The Christmas Goat and a few regular payments to the ICRC.

Your hypocrisy call is fair, though.
posted by imperium at 5:16 AM on February 4, 2007


So the accountant that does Bono's taxes is doing the job he was hired for? And now that Bono will actually have to think about his own taxes for the first time since he became rich enough to not have to think about it, maybe he'll make things right.

If you want to hate the guy, hate him for making shitty music after 1987, not because Seamus O'Goldberg, CPA, is a really good tax guy.
posted by bondcliff at 5:36 AM on February 4, 2007


It is nonsensical to call Bono hypocritical for avoiding paying taxes to an Irish government that uses taxes for purposes that Bono does not feel are beneficial.

That sentence reads better in the original Uigerese.
posted by hexatron at 6:13 AM on February 4, 2007


If you want to hate the guy, hate him for making shitty music after 1987, not because Seamus O'Goldberg, CPA, is a really good tax guy.

So, lemme get this straight, he made good music before 1987, that's what you're saying? That's funny!

And yeah, those Irish Jews are real good with the numbers, eh? Seamus on you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2007


It is nonsensical to call Bono hypocritical for avoiding paying taxes to an Irish government that uses taxes for purposes that Bono does not feel are beneficial.

Indeed. It sounds like the article's author is suggesting that because I believe in stuff like universal health care, I ought not take any deductions.

Real life moral decisions are more complex than the author makes it out to be. Not that I think U2 have necessarily done the right thing in this case. But that's based largely on my emotional reaction to the story, absent of many of the actual facts, and without having heard U2's side of the story.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:22 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


As an Irish Jew, I can tell you this: I am terrible at numbers.

Also, years ago, when I knew a lot of skinheads (long story), they thought it was hilarious to call me Mike McKike. It was not hilarious.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:30 AM on February 4, 2007


they thought it was hilarious to call me Mike McKike. It was not hilarious.

for real?
posted by amberglow at 7:07 AM on February 4, 2007


LOLBONORIANS
posted by loquacious at 7:34 AM on February 4, 2007


Oh yes, Amberglow. Oh yes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:41 AM on February 4, 2007


The funny thing about Bono is that celebrities treat him the way most people treat celebrities. A former colleague of mine was very involved with the Toronto International Film Festival, and said that every year, watching mega-celebrities jockey for position near Bono at the parties was the most entertaining event of the night.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2007


They are just using mysterious ways that are even better than the real thing to elevate their silver and gold by taking a trip through your wire until the end of the world. Trying to throw your arms around the world is even better than the real thing because you aren't running to stand still.

But they still haven't found what they're looking for.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2007


And yeah, those Irish Jews are real good with the numbers, eh?

If you catch 'em early enough if the day, sure.
posted by jonmc at 8:41 AM on February 4, 2007


Interesting...I guess the big question is would we be willing to give up say $10-20 million we didn't have to in order to be value-consistent in our taxpaying.

I'll wager that most of us wouldn't, but a few of us would.

It's easy to say "I'd never do that if I were that rich" when we are not even close to being that rich.


P.S. If you read the article, all Bono and co. are doing is continuing to pay no taxes on royalties, as they have done for decades in Ireland, until Ireland decided to change it's tax laws recently...so they sent part of their business to Holland. Yes, it's interesting, but they aren't suddenly dodging taxes that they used to pay.
posted by django_z at 8:42 AM on February 4, 2007


but they aren't suddenly dodging taxes that they used to pay.

True, but they are dodging taxes. And so the question remains, is it right for Bono to demand government funds for his pet projects when he's not willing to pay the money that goes to make up those funds?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2007


Yes, but on the other hand, the new law specfically targets wealthier artists, i.e., U2. The law was written primarily so that the Irish government could get at some of U2's money. That'd make me want to move my operation to a tax shelter too.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2007


Seamus O'Goldberg, CPA, is a really good tax guy.

You fucking ass.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2007


eustacescrubb: "Indeed. It sounds like the article's author is suggesting that because I believe in stuff like universal health care, I ought not take any deductions."

"Leaving the country in which you actually reside periodically in order to avoid paying taxes which you most certainly can afford" is not "taking a deduction." They're on an entirely different level.

"Real life moral decisions are more complex than the author makes it out to be. Not that I think U2 have necessarily done the right thing in this case. But that's based largely on my emotional reaction to the story, absent of many of the actual facts, and without having heard U2's side of the story."

It's quite kind of you to want to give Bono room for some private judgment about taxes and wait to hear his side of the story. However, given that he's made himself a figurehead of sorts for a cause that requires taxes, I'd say he's forfeited that privacy and put the onus of telling his side of the story on himself.

The very best way, bar none, to feed the hungry has, for many years, been to tax the rich. Bono seems, to my eye, to be intent on taxing everyone but the rich. That's a little funny, isn't it?

It's not stretching it to recognize the connection between Bono's pompousness in his musical life and Bono's arrogance in his charity work. They are one and the same.
posted by koeselitz at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2007


I think we're having both math problems and an acknowlegement problem here.

In terms of actual numbers, Bono's personal fortune is not remotely large enough even after tax management, to fix Africa. So, among other things he wants wealthy govenments (not only the Irish govenment to whom he happens to pay taxes) who have both the political and economic means, to forgo debt payments from poor countries to themselves.

He's not volunteering his own ample private fortune

he's not willing to pay the money that goes to make up those funds

Spin and more math problems. He's not volunteering everything but he's not voluteering zero either. He's not paying the most taxes to the Irish govenment he possibly could but he's not paying zero either.

pet projects

Spin, minimizing the significance of the issues he's raised. If the point of the post is to examine ethics we need to acknowlege the magnitude of the issues themselves and their role in mass human suffering. Isn't focussing on Bono's relatively trivial tax arrangements ignoring the African elephant in the room?

Bono's pompousness

Bono's arrogance


Heh, if you just don't like the guy that's fine, your call.
posted by scheptech at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2007


"Leaving the country in which you actually reside periodically in order to avoid paying taxes which you most certainly can afford" is not "taking a deduction." They're on an entirely different level.

Yes, but on an ethical level, they're quite similar. By this reasoning, I ought not take deductions, but should pay the full amount the IRS thinks I owe, to fund the social programs I support.


It's not stretching it to recognize the connection between Bono's pompousness in his musical life and Bono's arrogance in his charity work. They are one and the same.

Meh. It's your opinon that Bono is musically pompous or arrogant w/r/t charity, asuming that your conclusion is right based on two unprovaen premises is kind of silly.

And I'm not defenind U2 per se (again, I'm inclined to agree it was a bad thing to do), but you seem to be suffering from that age-old desire to find even Clinton's Monica.

It's quite kind of you to want to give Bono room for some private judgment about taxes and wait to hear his side of the story. However, given that he's made himself a figurehead of sorts for a cause that requires taxes, I'd say he's forfeited that privacy and put the onus of telling his side of the story on himself

Wait -- because the author of the article negleected to do basic reaseach and find out U2's side of the story, Bono's now obligated to post here on MeFi and tell his side?
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2007


damn, I can't type today.

"find every Clinton's Monica" is what I meant.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2007


People people!! Please! You misunderstood poor Bono's intentions! He is saying that only poor people's taxes should be used to help poor people; the rich don't need to pay taxes because they don't need any government services. I mean, Bono needs his money for private jets and attending swanky galas, sheesh!
posted by Vindaloo at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


(from the NYT article) But critics say that U2’s tax move to Holland is threatening to tarnish the halo surrounding the well-regarded, affable and articulate Bono, by lending him a whiff of hypocrisy. After all, unlike Bono, Mr. Jagger is not out campaigning against third-world debt, or writing a foreword for “The End of Poverty,” the most recent book by the prominent economist Jeffrey D. Sachs.

Well duh, but it's still the same very same thing in the end and if it's dodgy it's still dodgy whatever public stance the celebrity in question takes.

I find it rather ludicrous that we're supposed to get all finger wagging indignant only about Bono because ah well Jagger never said he cared about the poor anyway. So what? should we pat him on the back for being consistent? And what about Ikea, Apple, EMI, etc.? They're all making more money than U2 and the Stones.

'everybody does it but it's unethical only if you can spot the hypocrisy' is kind of a dodgy view of ethics in itself.

That it's all legal, that's where the issue should be, and it's a bigger issue than the celebrities involved. Maybe it just shouldn't be so easy to set up business in a country other than the one you reside in/actually have your business hq in just to pay less taxes. Ordinary workers and companies can't do this after all.
posted by pleeker at 10:17 AM on February 4, 2007


We must wait until all the facts are in! We don't know why Bono gets away without paying his fair share!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2007


I see no hypocrisy. Paying less tax means more to give as he sees fit without layers of bureaucracy. Or NOT give, as he sees fit.
posted by The Deej at 10:27 AM on February 4, 2007


Maybe it just shouldn't be so easy to set up business in a country other than the one you reside in/actually have your business hq in

Could be, but in U2's case they do actually conduct business all over the world.

just to pay less taxes.

They reside and work all over the world while doing it. Bono has permanent residences in Ireland, France, and New York.

Ordinary workers and companies can't do this after all.

True, but because that reflects reality. Their earning and spending occurs primarily within their own countries' borders.
posted by scheptech at 10:35 AM on February 4, 2007


the new law specfically targets wealthier artists, i.e., U2. The law was written primarily so that the Irish government could get at some of U2's money. That'd make me want to move my operation to a tax shelter too.

Well, eustacescrubbs, new normal tax raises in any given country specifically target, oh, 99% of the population, pity they can't all just go "nyah nyah, fuck the government, let's move to Holland", just like that.

U2 also reinvest their money locally and they do pay local taxes on that. Don't see why their royalty income should be subject to less taxes than their hotel business income, just because they technically can move one of those abroad and not the other.

They'd been privileged by their own government so far, and now they're getting that privilege from another government, like many other big earners do. Instead of enjoying the schadenfreude about Bono's hypocrisy, maybe someone should campaign for uniform tax policies for the wealthy, at least within the EU. Then even the Bonos and Jaggers and their anonymous equivalents would have no choice but to pay what's due where it's due, just like everyone else does.
posted by pleeker at 10:39 AM on February 4, 2007


scheptech, they do sell their music products all over the world, but their music business and their label music business is located in Dublin, Ireland. Just like their hotels, restaurants, fashion labels, etc.

They only moved to Holland the company that 'deals with the band's royalty payments', not the actual whole business, and they only did that in response to the changed policy about royalties, and no one even noticed that until this report came out - so the notion that 'they do business all over the world' is a silly excuse.
posted by pleeker at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2007


As long as he isn't flinging shit at his keepers or agressively masturbating at younger visitors, Bonobo is free to do what he pleases.
posted by breezeway at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and:

- Ordinary workers and companies can't do this after all.

True, but because that reflects reality. Their earning and spending occurs primarily within their own countries' borders.


Nah, sorry, all sorts of individuals and smaller companies than U2/Stones Ltd. can make earnings from customers abroad, and spend their money abroad in all sorts of ways, but they never had the privilege of tax-free royalties and then moving royalties abroad. That's the reality reflected by the difference.

And workers have to physically move lock stock and barrel to another country if they want to pay that country's lower taxes. Bono may have houses in France and NY as well as Dublin, but that's neither here nor there, since he hasn't moved to Holland.

Come on, they said it themselves, it's all about being 'tax efficient' - it's obvious it's just something they did because they can, it will allow them to keep a lot more money for their heirs, that's all.

And I'm not even interested in bashing U2, as that's a distraction from the bigger question of all these sorts of tax privileges wealthy people and huge corporations can have that others don't.
posted by pleeker at 10:57 AM on February 4, 2007


Legally avoiding taxes is fine and the proper, financially responsible, thing to do. If Bono's campaign causes a new revenue stream to be added to his tax burden that is earmarked for aid then I doubt he would go to illegal lengths to avoid paying it. If it is drafted in such a way that it can be avoided then it will be by Bono and anyone else with the wherewithal to figure out how to avoid it.
posted by bz at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2007


pleeker: I find it rather ludicrous that we're supposed to get all finger wagging indignant only about Bono because ah well Jagger never said he cared about the poor anyway.

Agreed. Is it better to have moral standards, while failing to fully live up to them, or to have no moral standards at all?

Neal Stephenson (The Diamond Age):
"You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices. ... It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticize others--after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds are there for criticism? This led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticize one another's shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour--you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another.

"... Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of outlandish conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves--they took no moral stances and lived by none. So they were morally superior to the Victorians even though--in fact, because--they had no moral standards at all."
posted by russilwvong at 11:19 AM on February 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, you know, if he is avoiding giving all that money to a government, in order to keep it himself and better distribute it among those who need it, great.

Now, if he is only keeping it to travel around the world, record in super expensive studios, buy houses, concubines and frivolities, I'm really envious it's clearly wrong.
posted by micayetoca at 11:34 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


That quote perfectly articulated something I've been feeling lately -- thanks, russilwvong. It pretty much describes the mood of the day.

But it's not just hypocrisy that's irritating about Bono -- it's his total willingness to be portrayed as a hero when all he is is a guy with a helpful hobby.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2007


I think the real story is missing from this thread. From page 7 of the SOMO report:

Recommendations

In order to promote a fair and just global economic system in which tax avoidance by multinational corporations is minimised, SOMO presents the following recommendations.

The Netherlands must put an end to harmful tax policies and stop being a bridge between tax havens and other countries as soon as possible. The Netherlands needs to review its taxation policies in the interests of the world community at large. They should be revised to ensure that a level playing field is created where each country receives the fair taxation due to it as a result of the commercial activities undertaken within its borders.

However, tax havens are a global problem which requires a global solution, and the Netherlands putting an end to its harmful tax policies is a necessary but not sufficient step. Hence it is important that the Netherlands also actively puts pressure on other OECD countries to follow suit.

The Dutch government should commission an official research on the Netherlands as a tax haven. This SOMO report is the first comprehensive report on this issue and a more detailed study, including a more quantitative analysis, would be desirable.

The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) should regularly publish statistical information on SFIs.

To support transparency, a new mandatory International Accounting Standard should be adopted that requires multinationals to provide detailed financial information on subsidiaries.

All relevant actors, including corporations, government, civil society organisations, consultants, and analysts, should recognise refraining from tax avoidance as a core element of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Issues such as a multinational’s presence in tax havens and the use of mailbox companies do not require fiscal expertise and can easily be assessed by any organisation. In the end, such measures are perceived to be in the interests of multinational corporations themselves as well.


Ultimately, this story is about the failure of the international community to make sure the rich pay a reasonable amount back to society. However I get a feeling from reading around this a bit that there is a real growing movement against tax loopholes so maybe there is some reason to be optimistic.
posted by teleskiving at 12:12 PM on February 4, 2007


You cannot be demanding that resources be allocated to anti-poverty drives and then deny those resources to government

I fail to see why you can't say "You are not giving enough to X and I refuse to give you another red cent more than I absolutely have to until you indicate you will."

I'm not saying Bono or U2 has this in mind, but its perfectly unhypocritical.
posted by Sparx at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2007


Bono has permanent residences in Ireland, France, and New York.

And he's not paying his full share of taxes in any of those places now. He's benefiting from the services and systems and infrastructure of all 3 countries, yet by moving the most profitable part of his business to an unrelated 4th country, he gets away with depriving any and all of the others of that income--income he himself wants those 3 countries to use for yet other countries.
posted by amberglow at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2007


This article seems like yet another craven attack on someone who has done more than the author ever will. Naturally, the author must retaliate for such a grievous offence.
posted by anatinus at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2007


But it's not just hypocrisy that's irritating about Bono -- it's his total willingness to be portrayed as a hero when all he is is a guy with a helpful hobby.
posted by Bookhouse


Ultimately, this story is about the failure of the international community to make sure the rich pay a reasonable amount back to society.
posted by teleskiving

I think you guys nailed it. And combined, your two points make the strongest argument: it is his hypocrisy that's most irritating, trying to come across as a world-saving hero, when what he really is is just another multimillionaire guarding his heaps and heaps of money.
posted by micayetoca at 1:28 PM on February 4, 2007


What have you done today to reduce third world debt?
posted by peacay at 4:01 PM on February 4, 2007


But that's why they haven't nailed - because Bono isn't just another multimillionaire guarding his money. Bono has done and will continue to do far more for third world poverty than I ever can, and that likely holds true for every single commenter in this thread. What grates is the hypocrisy, but russillwvong has nailed that one.

Get over yourself people - this is tall poppy syndrome.
posted by wilful at 4:10 PM on February 4, 2007


your two points make the strongest argument

The strongest argument for what? That you find Bono irritating? Like I said upthread, your call on that one.
posted by scheptech at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2007


I'm sure you're right, wilful, but I'm sure there are plenty of people (in this thread even) who have done as much or more for charitable causes in relation to their income and resources as Bono has.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2007


By this reasoning, I ought not take deductions, but should pay the full amount the IRS thinks I owe, to fund the social programs I support.

The amount that the IRS thinks you owe comes after deductions. Deductions are a recognition that not everyone at the same income level has the same expenses. A single person with no dependants has far more disposable income than someone with three children, and progressive tax recognises that with deductions.

Now, if you falsified deductions, that's another matter. Or did as a friend's father once did, and hid money in order to reduce your tax burden - he did so legally, but I didn't find it moral.

And Bono is a complete hypocrite if he doesn't want to pay his share of taxes. If he doesn't like how the government spends it, he can do like the rest of us -- vote.
posted by jb at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2007


jb,

Your analogy is flawed -- falsified deductions and the like are illegal; owning a business in Holland is not.

But that's why they haven't nailed - because Bono isn't just another multimillionaire guarding his money. Bono has done and will continue to do far more for third world poverty than I ever can, and that likely holds true for every single commenter in this thread. What grates is the hypocrisy, but russillwvong has nailed that one.

Get over yourself people - this is tall poppy syndrome.


Indeed.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2007


posted by Sparx I fail to see why you can't say "You are not giving enough to X and I refuse to give you another red cent more than I absolutely have to until you indicate you will."

Well, then the discussion might go like this:

Bono: You're not giving enough money to end hunger in Africa!

Tax Official: Okay, we'll start rerouting some of our tax revenue to fund programs that will end hunger in Africa. Based on your hefty income, you'll be paying higher taxes.

Bono: Hm. Well, I'm using a loophole to avoid being subjected to such high taxes.

Tax Official: Okay, so since you and a whole lot of other people are doing the same thing, we don't have much tax revenue to fund programs that will end hunger in Africa.

Bono: You're not giving enough money to end hunger in Africa!

Tax Official: I guess you still haven't found what you're looking for.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


jeez the INTJs are out in force tonite.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:59 PM on February 4, 2007


Bono has done and will continue to do far more for third world poverty than I ever can, and that likely holds true for every single commenter in this thread.

But so does every mega-rich person in America -- at least the ones who pay their taxes.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:34 PM on February 4, 2007


I'm not sure Bono's message is entirely inconsistent here (and I'm no fanboy).

Government donates some small amount to 3rd world causes. That amount is going to increase because Bono pays more tax than he has to? I doubt it. More likely it will go to more domestic spending. If you're looking for him to set an example for government (think about how strange that sounds, first off), that's one argument. But saying that "government has less money to donate if you don't pay your taxes" is just plain weird. It leaves out the bit where government, with more money, then decides to use it to donate more. As well, your personal money is better off being directly donated than being taxed and split off to who knows where -- even if charity, which one?

I'm sick and tired of hearing how nobody wants to pay tax but everybody wants better services. But this complaint is a bit stupid.
posted by dreamsign at 12:26 AM on February 5, 2007


As well, your personal money is better off being directly donated than being taxed

No wait a minute, nevermind what taxes are for, a topic on which we should all take remedial lessons from time to time, Bono himself is not asking for private donations for the causes he supports - remember the Live 8 slogan? 'we don't want your money' - he is appealing straight to governments, telling them to contribute more to poorer countries, with the taxpayers money of course. And he is a taxpayer like anyone else.

He's been pleading to his own government, and Ireland has a lot of other rich people to tax lately, but it also has its own social problems, for which Bono has also showed some concern, so, coupled with the poor country debt issue, you see it becomes pretty impossible to deny the inconsistency. You can't just shrug it off as "well who doesn't want to be be tax-efficient".

Bono's political stance and method of promoting the causes he support are still to be praised, or criticised, in themselves, apart from that. But you can't blame the Irish Labour minister for pointing out the obvious. His government is being pressured to do something by a public figure who's taking an available route to contribute less to that something.

It's legal but no less criticisable. It's also perfectly legal to not give a fuck about African debt, you know.

However, teleskiving is absolutely right, the real story is a much bigger issue and deserves much more attention.
posted by pleeker at 4:21 AM on February 5, 2007


You can't just shrug it off as "well who doesn't want to be be tax-efficient".

Public policy wrt charity and taxation are orthogonal.

If Bono's royalty zillions were being made in Ireland, then his expatriating them via corporate shells would be morally questionable.

From what I see, this is not the case.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2007


One of the reasons I love MetaFilter is that in many of the threads that concern the issues of the day, members with tremendous intelligence, experience and insight will weigh in on a topic and reveal something new to the hive mind, or else convince it to consider an easy or difficult issue in a way it had not previously.

This is not one of those threads.

It's not that complex. One can sensibly minimize one's own tax burden (legally) while trying to convince the governments of the world do devote more resources to bear on poverty without being a hypocrite. One is legally bound to pay taxes, while a same time a duty to the self to preserve one's own economy, as well as a duty to the greater good to try to solve a significant and terrible problem that affects a large number of people. All of those interests are served in this case.
posted by psmealey at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2007


The real scandal here are the Dutch tax laws. While screwing the average Dutch resident several times over, they offer loopholes galore for international tax evasion for non-resident corporations and hyperwealthy individuals. I really can't understand how Dutch voters put up with that...
posted by Skeptic at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2007


posted by psmealey It's not that complex. One can sensibly minimize one's own tax burden (legally) while trying to convince the governments of the world do devote more resources to bear on poverty without being a hypocrite. One is legally bound to pay taxes, while a same time a duty to the self to preserve one's own economy, as well as a duty to the greater good to try to solve a significant and terrible problem that affects a large number of people. All of those interests are served in this case.

And yet, when Bono tries to convince the governments of the world to devote more resources to assuage poverty, the invariable reply from the governments in question will be to announce the raising of taxes to procure those resources. Therefore, for Bono to minimize his contributions to the pool from which those resources are drawn suggests his motives for trying to convince the governments of the world to devote more resources to bear on poverty are self-serving, to say the least.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:38 AM on February 5, 2007


"Bono has done and will continue to do far more for third world poverty than I ever can, and that likely holds true for every single commenter in this thread."

Totally. Screw the proverbial old woman who gives her last penny to feed and clothe people and does charitable works full time in the srvice of others. Bono can show up with a dump truck full of money and she’s just another sucker.
What really counts is not intent or selflessness, but how much money you can bring to bear. That’s why Bono is morally superior to....well, everyone really.
I dunno man, I have a hard time eating when anyone else around me isn’t fed. I can’t imagine flying in a private jet (for non-business purposes, I understand Bono has certain needs in making his living). Buddy of mine just donated one million dollars this year (of his $1.1 millon salary) to a poverty program. But y’know, he’s nowhere near the man Bono is. I guess that makes Bill Gates the noblist of all men.
I know what you mean guy, but the gist of this is that there are people who truly care and those who make a show of caring. Bono may be a bit of both. Perhaps his bottom line is to get people to follow his example. Nothing wrong with being a whore if it’s for a good cause (seriously - old Zen story about a brilliant painter who was absolutely only concerned with money and charged as much as he possibly could for his work. And in the end he donated all of his money to charity - no one knew that though, because he didn’t say anything self-aggrandizing). The question is sticky because (as you alluded) it becomes one of - well, what are YOU doing? But there are those of us doing all we can. One can’t judge whether Bono is, but clearly he’s got a number of OTHER things he’s concerned with. Whether that’s ultimately directed to his central cause I don’t know. But after busting your ass for hours in a soup kitchen and coming out filthy, greasy and anonymous and seeing some guy pull up in a limo surrounded by press cutting a fat check to the organization saying “Look how much money I’M giving to the poor” is sort of a mixed blessing. I mean, thanks for the cash, but y’know, accolades sort of detract from the “we’re all in it together” sort of thing you get when you’re at the same level as the people you serve. Although I suppose someone has to be the high and mighty one, better someone like him than me and those of us who are otherwise anon.
I’d rather call the folks I know by their first names and have them call me “Smed” than “Mr. Leyman” as they would if they knew who cut some of those big checks. There’s a vast difference between working with someone and being a deus ex machina. Give a man a fish, all that. But I don’t know enough about Bono to say definatively what he’s actually doing. Only what it looks like from the ground. If I had his money, I’d do it differently...and indeed, I wouldn’t have his money for long. But maybe he’s doing more good this way getting more rich folks to kick in, I don’t know, I’ve never stayed in those circles.
Governments generally need their nuts squeezed to get them to re-allocate resources. Changes in policy often require a certain degree of pressure brought to bear that it is easier to bring as a weathy man. Walked that path a bit myself. Money is probably put to better use in his pocket than in the government’s pocket. But one has to ask, what kind of example is that setting for his rich collegues. I get away with what I get away with (mostly anti-Republican party) amongst my conservative Republican neighbors because they know I’m large ‘C’ conservative and I don’t ask for anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. Maybe Bono’s being practical, but he’d be sabotaging himself with his peers if his message doesn’t align with what he himself does.

Now there are hypocrites, but it’s no use having a moral position that one pays only lip service too. Indeed, in acts it’s exactly equal. One’s actions dictate one’s self-serving or nihilistic will, however noble a policy one espouses.

Off topic, I’ve always wondered why the incredibly rich (more money than you could possibly give away) aren’t wholly degenerate. I mean why not buy an island and hunt people, have round the clock oral sex, etc. and do whatever your Id suggests?
I suppose at the very least that’s a big attaboy for them, morally, if they don’t. I’d probably dump all my money on some loudmouth jerko and say “Oh yeah? Here, YOU deal with it asshat.”
...which is another good reason to stay anon, really.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:02 PM on February 5, 2007


/tough to judge what’s in someone’s heart.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2007


First of all I'm a U2 fan, but this is not just about money, it's also about monopolizing culture.

I am fed up with all this copyright that lock creation.

Bono is just another hypocrite in our world.
posted by zouhair at 2:30 PM on February 5, 2007


Whatever one thinks about Bono (or Bob Geldof, or anyone else that does this kind of thing and gets tarred as a hypocrite), this kind of story sucks. It completely puts the focus on the celebrity, it fosters 12 different flavors of cynicism about the original topic and, as a result almost completely undoes whatever work has been done to try to raise awareness of the massive problems of poverty and AIDS.

Bono might be the biggest asshole since the Kublai Kahn, but I frankly don't give a shit, he's brought some much needed attention to a willfully forgotten issue. Now we're all the worse of for having a million people read this story and now thinking, "that lousy Bono, he's getting out of paying his taxes and telling nations and people they should spend more in trying to eradicate poverty... why should I bother?"

U2 still sucks, though.
posted by psmealey at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2007


“Now we're all the worse of for having a million people read this story and now thinking, "that lousy Bono...”

Seems to me he’s made himself at least as important a part of the issue as the issues themselves. Maybe he hasn’t done it willingly, but that’s my (albeit less informed) perspective anyway. Which is why one generally backs off from becoming synonymous with a given cause. They shot Abraham Lincoln, didn’t they? Nailed up Christ. MLK, Lennon, etc. Do gooders seem to really take the hits. Perhaps we’ll enshrine Bono for his good works (after we stone him or allow him to be executed for tax evasion or some such) and talk about how wise it was he shorted the government on taxes (while paying our own) and how great it was that he stood for the cause (while ignoring the precepts ourselves).
posted by Smedleyman at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2007


I have like three of Kublai Kahn’s albums btw. The drum solo on “Crush Your Enemies, See Them Driven Before You, and Hear the Lamatation of Their Women” are pretty kick ass. My horse likes it too.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on February 5, 2007


I thought that song was by Conan and the Destroyers, wasn't it?
posted by psmealey at 6:00 PM on February 5, 2007


Their manager Bobby “E” Howard made them cover it.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:09 PM on February 5, 2007


He's also the mastermind behind Grace "Zula" Jones' club hit, "(If You Want a Man) Grab Him! And Take Him!"
posted by breezeway at 8:06 AM on February 6, 2007


/puts Anvil Of Crom on loop.
posted by longbaugh at 9:20 AM on February 6, 2007


I can't believe people really think this is ok-- demanding countries use their tax revenues for other countries' welfare (and remember that it is a zero-sum game--every penny that goes overseas for aid is one less penny spent in-country on domestic needs) and then himself moving part of his business (the most profitable part, btw--the most tax-generating part) overseas to avoid paying those very taxes.

Unbelievable.
posted by amberglow at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2007


demanding countries use their tax revenues for other countries' welfare ... and then himself moving part of his business overseas to avoid paying those very taxes.

Would it be less unbelieveable if he were to suggest that these governments, instead of increasing overall spending to pay for these programs, were to pay for them by reducing spending on things like defense and corporate welfare?

I'm not at all sure that he's suggesting that, but I guess I'm trying to reconcile my own contradictions of wanting to minimize my family's tax nut while at the same time being a good social liberal.

The logic I've seen in this thread points to the idea that if you want to be a do-gooder and support social programs that can bettter provide for the general welfare, then you should forget about itemizing your deductions and pay the max to Uncle Sam.
posted by psmealey at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2007


The logic I've seen in this thread points to the idea that if you want to be a do-gooder and support social programs that can bettter provide for the general welfare, then you should forget about itemizing your deductions and pay the max to Uncle Sam.

Logic doesn't really work here, because this is about the blurry line between making responsible efforts to reduce your tax burden, and behavior that could be regarded as gaming the system.

Personally I see Bono's behavior here as no worse than a bit crass but then again I don't generally see any hypocrisy in campaigning to change the rules at the same time as taking advantage of the current ones.
posted by teleskiving at 2:18 PM on February 6, 2007


he's not campaigning to change the rules at all--he's campaigning for our tax money to be allocated overseas, while moving his own assets overseas to avoid paying taxes on them at all.
posted by amberglow at 2:57 PM on February 6, 2007


he's not at all advocating a change in taxation or tax laws; he's simply accepting that as given. He wants Western Govts to make a priority of giving tax money to Africa. He also wants not to have to pay all of those taxes.
posted by amberglow at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2007


Keep in mind that Bono does pay taxes. What's going on, again, is that Ireland realized U2, as a business was raking in money, and wanted a peice of the action and so changed their tax laws to make that happen. they speicifically targeted U2, in other words.

So this idea that Bono pays no tax is false -- he's paying the same taxes he has for the past 25 years.

And the many people claiming that there's some moral difference between takign decductions and having an overseas-based business have no leg to stand on -- both are legal, and both are ways to avoid paying as much tax.

Let us suppose that our government decided to suddenly start taxing using the internet after 15 years of not taxing it. If you could afford to access the internet without paying the new internet tax, I'm guessing you would, and if you were simultaneously campaiging for universal health care, no one (except maybe the Hannitys and Limbaughs) would cry "hypocrite!"
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:03 PM on February 6, 2007


eustacescrubb: What's going on, again, is that Ireland realized U2, as a business was raking in money, and wanted a piece of the action and so changed their tax laws to make that happen. They specifically targeted U2, in other words.

Source? (I haven't seen this.)

More information: Richard Murphy, IHT. Murphy is affiliated with the Tax Justice Network, a group concerned with corporate tax avoidance.

Murphy's view--as far as I can tell--is that corporate tax avoidance is wrong, no matter who does it. So Bono shouldn't be singled out because his stance appears to be hypocritical; but conversely, he shouldn't be given a free pass because of his anti-poverty work.
posted by russilwvong at 5:15 PM on February 6, 2007


Source? (I haven't seen this.)

Well, you're not going to find Ireland admitting that anywhere, but the law change, which specifically targets artists who make over a certain amount a year, applies to a small handful of artists, and really only makes very much money off of U2.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:35 PM on February 6, 2007


And, again, none of that is to say that I don't think it's a shitty move on U2's part; it's just that I don't think the kind of shittiness it is is called hypocrisy.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2007


And, again, none of that is to say that I don't think it's a shitty move on U2's part; it's just that I don't think the kind of shittiness it is is called hypocrisy.

Yeah, I'd agree with that.
posted by russilwvong at 8:42 PM on February 6, 2007


posted by eustacescrubb I don't think the kind of shittiness it is is called hypocrisy.

What kind of shittiness is it?
posted by fandango_matt at 11:39 PM on February 6, 2007


Let us suppose that our government decided to suddenly start taxing using the internet after 15 years of not taxing it.

You really cannot compare, that'd be something affecting everyone. Besides, in that case, people wouldn't be able to move their internet usage abroad to avoid paying, would they?

We're talking about privilege and special treatment here.

What happened was not that 'Ireland realised that U2 were making a lot of money', U2 have been making a lot of money for the past 25 years. What happened is Ireland copped on to the fact it was ludicrous to allow musicians to get away with paying very low taxes on their royalties income no matter how high - the tax break was something they did in support of all musicians, except they now wisely set a cap for that, and taxes are still low even after that change.

Let's hope the Dutch government cops on to that too.
posted by pleeker at 2:23 AM on February 7, 2007


What kind of shittiness is it?

Not supporting the local economy? Lack of patriotism? Greed?

What happened is Ireland copped on to the fact it was ludicrous to allow musicians to get away with paying very low taxes on their royalties income no matter how high

And I wonder why they realized it was "ludicrous". It certainly wouldn't be because one of the musicians they hoped would be successful, draw in toruism dollars, and make a good name for Irish music and culture was acutally doing that, and doing it well.
I seriously doubt that if U2 weren't one of the Biggest Bands Ever, that Ireland would have revised the law.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:53 AM on February 7, 2007


You know, eustacescrubb, it cracks me up how you're making it sound like the Irish government is the sly party who took advantage of the popularity of U2.

What nerve, to demand the Biggest Band Ever, singlehandedly responsible for putting Irish culture on the map and attracting the tourists no less, pay their taxes like every other citizen of their country!

Yeah, why did they realise it was ludicrous to keep extending such a generous supportive tax policy even to those musicians making such an amount that they don't need that support anymore? How about, the usual stuff that happens in politics, laws get discussed and changed, sometimes even taking into consideration the interest of the whole of society, go figure.

How do you think the Irish, you know all those other people that live in Ireland as well as Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam, took the whole thing, including the move to Dutch tax shelters? There's a few hints in the linked article about that... Or are you saying the Irish government should ignore 99% of its own citizens?

What's even funnier is, Ireland already has tons of incentives for the arts and very low taxes for companies, which is one reason it attracted the European headquarters of many IT companies (something I'm afraid cannot be credited to U2's success) and again, even for the royalties policy, it's still low even afer that cap. It's not like they've suddenly gone tax mad. They simply rectified a policy that had not taken into account the level of wealth musicians could reach, a level at which it was incredibly stupid to keep giving them such huge tax breaks, because that's not who the policy was designed for.
posted by pleeker at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2007


You know, eustacescrubb, it cracks me up how you're making it sound like the Irish government is the sly party who took advantage of the popularity of U2

That's not really what I meant -- I just meant that the government is clearly targeting U2 and one can't expect Paul McGuinness to take that kindly or to just agree to fork over the money. It's dumb from a business standpoint, and U2 have never made bones about the fact that they're a business.
In other words, they're not being hypocrites, and it isn't a case of U2 suddenly seking to avoid taxes -- they want to not pay new taxes they've never had to pay before and which were put in place specifically to get their money.

That's a thing apart from whether or not, morally U2 should be contributing to the tax base in Ireland. I rather think they should, but it's not like there's a clear-cut moral line here.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:08 AM on February 12, 2007


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