Thought leadership

 Originally posted on the Business Post, 17 May 2020 Coronavirus is decimating employment, but tackling it is now creating a whole new industry of its own.The complexity of existing support, solutions and proposed solutions is multiplying by the day.  There is at least a dozen state supported funding options announced, from the Covid-19 working capital scheme to the SME credit guarantee scheme.  These are worthwhile incentives in their own right.  Nevertheless, for many business owners struggling to deal with the day-to-day practicalities of handling a collapsing business, the range of options, terms and conditions can be bewildering.  Even the most effective government support for business currently on offer, the temporary wage subsidy scheme, is becoming bogged down by the weight of its own complexity.  The guidance notes for employers operating the scheme have mushroomed.  The short “Frequently Asked Questions” guide which was issued by Revenue in March is now over 60 pages long after weeks of adding extensions, clarifications and examples.  Currently one of the best supports for business is the temporary suspension of collection of PAYE and VAT.  It has the virtue of simplicity.  VAT and PAYE do not “belong” to a business.  They are collected and transferred to Revenue on behalf of consumers and workers.  If you're a small business, you just don't pay over the PAYE and VAT due this month or next month.  If your turnover is in excess of €3 million, you just need to let Revenue know that you intend to postpone payment.  Given that the national payroll before the current slump was heading towards some €100 billion euros, and that on average, PAYE takes out approximately 15% of that, there can be no doubt that deferral of PAYE currently being planned means a very substantial contribution to the cashflow of employers but at a heavy cost to the State.  VAT is different in that ultimately it is a consumer tax.  Depending on the product or service, VAT can add 13.5% or 23% to the purchase price.  Much of it is collected by retailers and businesses providing services to private consumers.  If the priority is to target the SME sector, VAT relief is particularly effective as we saw with old the 9% VAT rate for hospitality.The plans to extend the current PAYE and VAT deferral arrangements, still to be fleshed out in any great detail, involve PAYE and VAT “warehousing”.  The term warehousing suggests something being put into storage for access at a later stage.  However, are there situations where the collection of the PAYE and VAT should not just be postponed, but rather forgiven altogether?In the US there is a loan scheme for businesses damaged by the Covid-19 response known as the Paycheck Protection Programme.  Loans are given to employers for a two year term, at a 1% rate of interest.  In many cases the loans will be forgiven in full or in part, depending on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining wage levels.  $200 billion of such loans to 2.6 million businesses have already been approved.The prospect of having the loan written off creates a huge incentive for businesses to sustain employment and manage their way back to financial health.  The arrangement also removes much of the risk (if not the cost) from the official point of view, because ultimately it’s a form of grant aid for businesses who have shown they put this state support to best use.A similar approach could be taken with the PAYE and VAT warehousing proposals here.  As well as deferring tax payments, businesses that maintain employment levels could be forgiven some of the VAT and PAYE due in the warehouse.   In this way, we rebuild our industrial base first by easing cashflow, and secure it then by further boosting employers who have best managed the consequences of the pandemic.  There is no doubt that this US style approach would be costly, but the potential for saving on social welfare benefits for the unemployed is significant.  No matter what happens, Covid-19 is going to cost the country a lot of money.  Is it better to spend that money on providing employment or providing welfare?Perhaps this type of solution is too straightforward.  Industry and officialdom alike have become familiar with complexity to the extent that we become suspicious if complexity is absent.  The business lobby must take its share of the blame for this attitude.  IBEC’s Reboot and Reimagine campaign launched earlier this week is an impressive piece of work, and has much to recommend it.  Simplicity however is not among its attributes.  It's hard to disagree with much of its content, but the range and nuances of its asks challenges how quickly those requests could be acted upon.Because of the rapid fall-off in activity, many business operators don’t have the time or the expertise to work through what supports they can or should avail of.  Few want to borrow, no matter how low the interest rate, no matter the moratoriums or guarantees, when their business model is in collapse.  We need simple and quick supports to cope with Covid-19 unemployment crisis, not a complex new industry of loans, grants, tax breaks and deferrals.Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland

Aug 06, 2020
Thought leadership

 Originally posted on The Business Post, 2 August 2020VAT and Consumer BehaviourIncreases in VAT usually pass the acid test of tax policy – the extraction of the most amount of money with the least amount of complaint.  Compared to an income tax increase, the general population rarely gripes about increases in VAT rates.  Hiking the standard rate of VAT of 21% to 23% in 2012 generated hardly any noise compared to the introduction of USC and the reduction of allowances and credits the previous year.  So will people really notice the VAT decrease of 23% to 21% in the July Jobs Stimulus? VAT is a truly European tax in that the rules are devised in Brussels and then implemented in EU member countries.  It is Brussels that decides that the maximum rate of VAT cannot exceed 25%. .  European rules tell us that a box of teabags is charged 0% VAT, but a cup of tea in a café is charged 13.5% VAT while a tin of iced tea in the supermarket is charged 23% VAT.  There’s little enough any Irish government can do to tinker with the VAT system, except make marginal rate adjustments. VAT is a major contributor to the Irish Exchequer.  In 2019, over €15 billion was collected in net VAT receipts which is more than one quarter of the total tax receipts for that year, yet it is a notoriously blunt instrument of public policy.  No VAT is charged on the clothes of the children whose parents are on social welfare, but no VAT is charged either on the clothes of the children of high earners.  Maybe that’s why governments avoid using it for public policy purposes unless you include the now defunct 9% rate of VAT for the hospitality sector.   So it was all the more surprising that the July stimulus knocked two percentage points off the main VAT rate.  The cost of this measure is €440 million, which is a little less than 10% of the total value of the package.  This estimate for the cost of this six month VAT reduction period is in line with Revenue estimates for good years.  In a moribund economy the Department of Finance seems to expect a spending spree.  Remember too that the 23% rate only applies to about half of the items or services we buy.  The rest are charged at lower rates or are exempt.Outside of the retail sphere, the education sector and the banking sector pay sizeable amounts because their activities are largely VAT exempt.  These sectors cannot recover the VAT they pay on purchases because they don’t charge VAT on their sales.  In the main VAT is therefore a consumption tax ultimately falling on the consumer.  So will the VAT reduction boost sales of clothing, alcohol, electrical and other household goods and luxury foodstuffs which fall into the 23% VAT category?  It might not, even if businesses pass on the VAT rate reduction to their customers.  Despite suggestions otherwise from some political quarters, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was quite clear that the 2% reduction should be passed on to consumers.  That's not going to make a huge difference for many items because the value of a 2% VAT reduction approximates to about €1.60 for every €100 spent.  It only becomes a different story if you go out to buy a big-ticket item like a car, where the VAT saving could perhaps insure it for a year.There is no law obliging traders to reduce their prices because there has been a reduction in the VAT rate.  As long as they charge the correct amount of VAT at the correct time, they can take whatever margin they wish.  Past history however suggests that small VAT reductions like the current 2% reduction tend not to get passed on to consumers.  Part of the rationale when the 9% rate of VAT on hospitality was introduced was that a full 4.5% reduction to the normal 13.5% rate would be visible and palpable and therefore consumers would expect to see the difference.So even if it is passed on, a 2% VAT reduction may be inadequate to drive additional volumes of consumer spending.  In terms of business benefit it might have been better to apply the projected €440 million cost towards reducing the vast amounts of VAT debt currently being warehoused against the day when businesses can finally pay their tax liabilities.  Given that the EU state aid restraints are temporarily lifted, that €440 million could have been targeted, for example, specifically to forgive some of the historical VAT due from the SME sector.  The July jobs stimulus was good.  Ministers and their officials alike did well to deliver what in effect is a full scale national budget in the space of few weeks.  The purpose and rationale of many of the measures like the extension of the wage subsidy, the extension of the pandemic unemployment payments, and the extinguishing of commercial rates is readily apparent.  The object of this VAT reduction is not as clear.I've never seen a tax reduction I didn't like.  However, many consumers may not notice this tax reduction and many businesses could benefit more from this element of the jobs stimulus if the cost of the VAT reduction was diverted to reducing their current and not their future tax debts.Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland 

Aug 06, 2020
Ethics and Governance

Níall Fitzgerald explains how boards can use the current crisis to take stock and, where appropriate, reflect new priorities.While the COVID-19 crisis continues, organisations are preparing for the uncertainty ahead. This process presents an opportunity for organisations to rethink their priorities, how they deploy resources, and the way they do things.In the months ahead, boards will face new challenges that can give rise to major concerns. This article examines some of those challenges, the responsibility of boards in facing them, and questions board members can ask to help focus on what is important.Going concernIrish and UK company law requires directors to act in the best interests of the company, which includes promoting its success and ensuring that it continues as a going concern. Past corporate collapses have revealed instances where directors failed in this duty. Failures attributed to directors include having unquestioning optimism rather than a challenging mindset and succumbing to groupthink.Given the current uncertainty, threats to going concern are more likely to feature higher on the risk register in many organisations. Oversight is a key role of the board, and this requires directors to have a questioning mindset, apply their skills, experience and knowledge to challenge management appropriately on their judgements, and ensure that they have sufficient evidence to support those judgements. Having a range of skills, experience and knowledge (in addition to diversity in other forms) on a board will help ensure that a range of perspectives and practicalities are considered. Basic good governance practices such as reviewing meeting papers in advance, arriving to meetings prepared, and an effective chair who allows sufficient time for discussion will make a big difference to the quality of the decisions or actions arising.In June 2020, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published COVID-19 – Going Concern, Risk and Viability: Reporting in Times of Uncertainty. The paper highlights how challenges that would normally relate to building resilience and flexibility (e.g. sourcing short-term cash resources) have pivoted as a result of the pandemic to threats relating to survival and, therefore, going concern.Other examples of current threats and challenges to going concern include:further restrictions that limit the return to normal operations;restrictions placed on government (or other) capital;timing and continuation of government schemes and support packages;short-term impacts of pricing changes to revenue and expenses; andimpacts on human capital.An Institute article titled Going Concern Considerations for Members Preparing or Auditing Financial Statements in the Context of COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 Hub on Chartered Accountants Ireland’s website.Social responsibility, and public and employee welfareDirectors have a duty under company law to have regard to the interests of employees and will therefore be involved in making important decisions in relation to workforce policies and practices. In addition, corporate governance codes (e.g. the UK Corporate Governance Code) and sustainability frameworks (e.g. an environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework) highlight how a board’s consideration of all stakeholder interests, including societal impact, is important to ensure the organisation’s long-term success.The COVID-19 crisis forced many organisations to rapidly transform the way they work. In many cases, anticipated obstacles to business continuity either did not arise or were overcome with adjustments to how work and people are managed, as well as investment in ICT infrastructure, connectivity and cybersecurity. In April 2020, The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released statistics revealing that 49% of adults in employment were working from home. In May 2020, an Irish survey of remote working during the COVID-19 crisis by the Whittaker Institute at National University Ireland Galway and the Western Development Commission revealed that 51% of respondents never worked remotely before the COVID-19 crisis. Of these, 78% would like to continue to work remotely.As public health restrictions are lifted, boards – or board chairs, at least – should engage with CEOs and executive management to support the restoration of operations and plan the safe return to the workplace of employees, suppliers and customers. Executive management and boards should be aware of, and follow, national and local government protocols issued on returning to the workplace.No plan survives the battlefield, so expect adjustments along the way. Updating the board and seeking direction at every turn is not practical, however. It might, therefore, be wise to establish an oversight working party with regular executive engagement and delegated responsibility for overseeing the implementation of plans to restore operations. Decision-making authority should be clearly defined to ensure issues are, where appropriate, referred to the board for a decision. As boards plan for the return to the workplace, directors should consider the following:what work can be done remotely?do certain internal policies need to be rewritten to support new or future ways of working?are there opportunities for automation or digitalisation?what impact could remote working have on organisational culture, and what changes are necessary to align it with the organisation’s mission, vision and values?Boards also have an opportunity to consider how their organisations can have a greater positive social impact. During the crisis, some organisations went further with social responsibility by redirecting their resources to provide support, services and products to the fight against COVID-19. Charities and other not-for-profit organisations excelled in meeting the social needs of many vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Many organisations incentivised staff to get involved in volunteerism to help with, or raise funds for, good causes. In fact, organisations such as Volunteer Ireland and the Royal Voluntary Service reported a surge in registrations, resulting in a surplus of volunteers.Sustainable ‘reset’An important principle set out in the UK Corporate Governance Code is for a board “to promote the long-term sustainable success of the company”. This involves considering how the organisation generates and preserves value, and contributes to wider society over the long-term. It also involves considering the sustainability of the business model – weighing up resilience with efficiency to achieve long-term success. In times of uncertainty, some efficiencies may be sacrificed to achieve resilience. A board’s macro perspective can make a significant contribution in helping the organisation achieve a balance between these two factors.As part of pre-recovery planning, many organisations will engage in horizon scanning to anticipate changes, sources of uncertainty, and future threats and opportunities. While the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on operations may dominate risk perception, organisations also have a unique opportunity to consider how they can rebuild better, greener, and for a more resilient, sustainable world. Boards are well-positioned to lead and encourage innovation on how organisations can adapt to expectations of sustainability from key stakeholders such as investors, customers and regulators. These expectations are apparent in changing social behaviour (e.g. support for global climate protests), investor conditions (e.g. ESG goals or investors’ adoption of Principles for Responsible Investment), and regulator mandates (e.g. the development of standards for ESG disclosures for financial market participants, advisers and products).The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a blueprint that can be used to define an organisation’s sustainability objectives. The World Economic Forum refer to this opportunity as the ‘great reset’. We all have a vested interest in averting further global crises. When boards are resetting their agenda to focus on new priorities, sustainability must be a key consideration in more ways than one.ConclusionOrganisations can expect further challenges in the months ahead. This is not ‘business as usual’ and boards are adapting as the situation unfolds. Whether an organisation is struggling or thriving in the uncertainty, key priorities for any pre-recovery strategy must include going concern, social responsibility, employee and public welfare, and sustainability.Níall Fitzgerald FCA is Head of Ethics and Governance at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Jul 30, 2020
Governance, Risk and Legal

Entries open until 11 September 2020 The Good Governance Awards recognises and encourages adherence to good governance by charities and other non-profit organisations in Ireland. The 2020 Awards are now open for entries for both the Annual Report Award and the Governance Initiative Award on www.goodgovernanceawards.ie Institute involvement The Institute are proudly supporting the awards for the third year. It is important to recognise good governance and more importantly to recognise the people that are responsible for putting it into practice. Members of our profession are held in high regard by charity and non-profit organisations and many are involved in the sector by direct employment, volunteering, accepting trustee appointments, acting as advisors, accountants, or auditors. Two Award Types Annual Reports: This award recognises annual reports that effectively tell the story of the non-profits its activities, impact, finances and demonstrates adherence to good governance practice.   Governance Improvement Initiative: This award recognises initiatives that have been taken in the last 12 months to improve the quality of the non-profit’s governance. Four great reasons to enter Open for non-profits of all sizes: There are six entry categories ranging from small (annual turnover of less than €50,000) to the very large (turnover of over €15 million).The push this year is for getting smaller non-profits involved Entries reviewed by a first class assessment and judging panel: There is a panel of over 60 assessors and judges and seven accountancy firms who bring great expertise and experience who will review each entry and provide valuable feedback and insight to assist in enhancing each submitting organisation’s governance Organisation reputation is enhanced with stakeholders: Entering the Good Governance Awards demonstrates commitment to adhering to good governance practice and transparency. It also shows willingness to be assessed and receive feedback on how governance can be enhanced Boost team morale and gain valuable PR opportunities: Being shortlisted for a Good Governance Award recognises hard work to adhere to good governance practice. Winning an award boosts credibility and increases awareness of the organisation which can help convince even more people that it is a cause worth supporting. New award category for 2020: very small non profits In this year's Good Governance Awards, there is a new entry category for very small non-profits (annual turnover less than €50,000). As an added incentive to encourage smaller non-profits to enter for the Annual Report award, thanks to the Community Foundation of Ireland, those shortlisted in this category will receive €1,000 with the overall winner receiving an additional €1,000. For more details, see www.goodgovernance.ie Institute supports and services for those involved in the Charity/Non-profit sector (‘the Sector’) The following are examples of key supports and services the Institute have in place for members: Dedicated Charities and Non-profit members group (ROI), co-chaired by Paula Nyland FCA and Tony Ward FCA – See page 50 of 2019 Annual Report) Dedicated Charities and Non-profit members group (NI), chaired by Dr Rosemary Peters Gallagher OBE – See page 23 of 2019 Ulster Society Annual Report) Concise Guide of Ethics and Governance for the charity and not-for-profit sector Northern Ireland: Notification facility for Charities/Non-profit boards seeking expressions of interest from Chartered Accountants to join their board. Click for list of contacts Procedures for Quality Audit for Charities – ROI Procedures for Quality Audit for Charities – NI Online courses relevant to Charity and non-profit sector (click and search) e.g. Auditing and Accounting for Charities – ROI Also, events run by District Societies (Western, Cork, Ulster, Mid West, North West, Leinster, London, Australia, United States) Northern Ireland:  Organise webinars on relevant topics for sector (click and search) Technical representations to standard setters, government and regulators on matters also affecting the Sector, based on inhouse technical research and expert input from members technical committees Technical Releases and Technical Alerts providing additional information on technical matters also affecting the Sector Dedicated Governance Resource Centre an Ethics Resource Centre containing updates and other resources on matters also relevant to the Sector Níall Fitzgerald - Head of Ethics and Governance      

Jul 01, 2020
Thought leadership

Originally published on Business Post, 31 May 2020 The Japanese government is delivering generous one off relief payments to residents of Japan as part of a package of measures to lift its economy following the coronavirus pandemic.    Japan, among the developed nations, has had one of the less stringent lockdowns with many businesses operating more or less as normal, except for the hospitality and tourism industries.  This per capita, no questions asked, lump sum is attractive but it is something of an outlier in the context of international economic responses.  One of the more striking aspects of government bailouts across the world has been their similarity of approach– cuts-and-pastes of policies between one jurisdiction and the next.  Now, as countries emerge from the restrictions, patterns of effectiveness of different types of government support for business are emerging.   Like Ireland, many countries used their Revenue Authority as a primary channel for economic relief.  Tax systems have the dual benefit of holding records on the entire business community (at least in theory) along with automated processes.  Few developed economies do not at this stage have highly automated systems for payroll tax collection and sales tax collection and this infrastructure has been widely used to pay funds to support employment.  New Zealand is of course a paradigm of how to deal with the pandemic, and has gone one step further.  The New Zealand Inland Revenue also delivers cheap loans to struggling businesses and the amount of the loans is predicated on the number of employees in the business.   Wage subsidy schemes like the Irish scheme have been introduced in the likes of Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand.  Not all employment support schemes have been an unqualified success.  Some countries are finding that emergency coronavirus benefits for workers who have been made unemployed trump the benefits of staying in employment.  Complexity and claimant publicity in Canada have turned out to be significant disincentives for take up, similarly to the rumblings in this country when the scheme was first announced here.  Reaction to the UK’s Job Retention Scheme to date seems to have been largely positive, but their scheme is only a few weeks old.   Countries are also exploring ways of getting more cash into troubled business.  Germany is looking to revise some of its tax rules so that losses in this pandemic year can be set against more profits already taxed in earlier years, resulting in refunds.  New Zealand is considering allowing estimates of likely losses in 2021 to be used to trigger tax refunds now.  In another echo of the Irish experience, Germany is scoping a new low rate of VAT for its restaurant sector.     It seems that in many countries, direct welfare benefits paid to individuals have not just undermined attempts to subsidise businesses to secure employment, but created issues of their own.  There has already been some debate in this country as to how recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment will account for the tax due on those payments at the end of the year.  In Germany it is unclear if individuals receiving comparable benefits to our Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be obliged to file tax returns; normal German tax administration procedures suggest that they will.  On the other hand the peculiarities of the Australian system are such that many individuals will look to file tax returns early to secure refunds of income tax overpaid.    Revenue authorities in different parts of the world are thus facing the prospect of a flood of taxpayer activity either because of refunds due or obligations to be met.  That's something that could well happen here too, unless Revenue devise and publish processes to simplify compliance for all those workers facing tax liabilities arising either from the pandemic unemployment payment, or from wage subsidies which were not subject to PAYE.   Future problems are accruing.  It's not just Ireland that is proposing to “warehouse” tax debt, but in every country where there has been tax debt deferral, these liabilities will ultimately have to be paid.  Countries are tending to replace the pandemic business liquidity crisis with a business debt crisis.  As long as that continues, there is little prospect of rapid business recovery.  Businesses which are currently being kept on artificial life support through subsidies, loans and tax deferrals will hit a wall when these dry up.  In Australia, the talk is already of an “insolvency cliff”, as troubled small businesses have up to now been shielded by a nationwide ban on liquidations.   This week the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council was calling for an “adjustment” to the national finances but in fact are championing Austerity 2.0.  Yet if we do too much to hinder a return to previous levels of consumption, many businesses will be consigned to a limbo of business stagnation.  When the crisis hit, few jurisdictions had the time and space to look at models implemented in other countries before they introduced their own systems for pandemic relief.    Now it is different.  While we can’t afford to follow the Japanese example, we can benefit from experiences in other countries, and learn from the ones that are getting it right.   Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland  

Jun 22, 2020
Thought leadership

Originally published on Business Post, 24 May 2020 The late US President, Ronald Reagan, had a simple maxim about government's view of the economy.  If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  If it stops moving, subsidise it.  Coronavirus has thrown this maxim into action.   Everything has stopped moving in the economy and must now be subsidised. No less a body than the European Commission formally recommended this week that Ireland “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”.    Borrowing is of course one way of funding these subsidies.  In its capacity as the watchdog of fiscal rectitude among EU countries, the Commission has invoked its General Escape Clause.  That means that there won't be any sanctions for countries borrowing what they have to borrow, and doing what they have to do, to secure their nations’ health and livelihoods.  The European institutions have even made long-term finance available at virtually invisible lending rates for these very purposes.   While all this is helpful, it doesn't take away from the need to ensure sustainable tax revenues to deal with increased bills for our healthcare system, social welfare and other essential services which are likely now to extend well beyond 2020.  These bills cannot be met indefinitely by borrowing.  Gloomy unemployment forecasts of up to 22% in the second quarter of this year, as suggested by the Department of Finance this week, don’t augur well for sustainable tax revenues.   We find ourselves in something of a phoney war, a period of stabilized abnormality.  Everyone is looking forward to the resumption of something approaching normality as the country embarks on its phased reopening of businesses and amenities.  The real measure of the Covid-19 pandemic will be not so much on what does reopen, but what does not.  While it is the high-profile household names – Debenhams, FlyBE - which receive all the attention when they hit the wall, most industry will find it just as difficult to return to pre-covid trading levels.  Smaller service industries in particular are now finding that once they have worked through any business that was on hand, there is nothing new in the pipeline.   To compound matters, the British government's proposals on implementing the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol published this week, while receiving cautious welcome as being something rather than nothing, will not be workable.  The proposals emphasise not imposing additional customs declarations on GB and NI business as trade in goods flows between Britain and Northern Ireland.  This is politically understandable, but customs is a tax.  Taxes are very hard to enforce without declarations.  Further, the proposals are silent on how to manage the exports from Northern Ireland to Britain which are channelled for instance through Dublin Port.   We have a battered economy that is dealing with massive unemployment, compromised business models and the challenges of Brexit rearing up again.  Irish industry is not even paying the taxes which are currently due let alone being able to deliver additional ones.    Downturns tend to promote clamour for tax reform because the fairest tax is always the one which you don't pay yourself.  Tax reforms like changing the corporate tax regime or introducing a wealth tax seem all the more attractive when cash is tight.  The current signals are that tax-raising measures are not high on anyone's priority list, but that will change.  Given the high number of business closures and job layoffs, there will be fewer income earners and hence fewer taxpayers for the next several years.   For years Ireland has used tax as a primary lever of economic policy.  Long before we surrendered our interest rate and exchange rate mechanisms when we joined the euro group of countries, tax was used to drive investment and the employment which follows it.  Our system is characterised by a high rate income tax regime, a high rate VAT regime, a moderate rate capital tax regime, and a low rate corporate tax regime.  We aspire to social equity by having income tax rate thresholds and allowances skewed towards lower earners, generous tax relief for pension provision and a wide range of essential goods and services charged with VAT at lower rates.    It is impossible with any certainty to determine what tax changes might be sustainable when we really don't know what our economy is going to look like in three months’ time, let alone three years.  Overall though, when compared with most other developed economies the Irish tax burden is not particularly high.  We can rely on debt to meet the upfront emergency costs in 2020 and hope that these do not recur, but we cannot rely on it indefinitely while waiting for the numbers of successful businesses recover, and unemployment to fall.   Changes will have to be made, but now is not the time to make them.  It is still the time for subsidies, not for taxes, just as Reagan’s maxim demands.   Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland

Jun 22, 2020

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