Corporation tax in the Republic of Ireland

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Corporation tax in the Republic of Ireland is a levy on a company's profits. The tax is charged on a company's income. The corporation tax in Ireland is relatively low by EU standards, and is often cited as an example of tax competition, as it is used as an incentive for foreign companies to invest in the state. This assertion is disputed by the Irish government.[1]

Tax rates[edit]

There are two rates of corporation tax in the Republic of Ireland:

A special rate of 10% for companies involved in manufacturing, the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) or the Shannon Free Zone ended on 31 December 2003.[2]

A special rate can be applied to certain companies by way of an Advance tax ruling although such ruling may be classified as an illegal State aid by the European Commission.[3]


Over the past decade, Ireland’s corporate taxation system has been a source of controversy with some of Ireland’s fellow-member states in the European Union. The French government has over the past decade, most particularly during the premiership of Lionel Jospin, consistently condemned and criticised the Irish corporation tax system. This criticism is based on the belief that the low corporation tax rates enabled Ireland to compete unfairly in attracting international investment. However, despite the French critique of the Irish corporate tax system, the Irish example has won many followers, with many 'emerging' and Eastern European economies following the Irish example.

Post-independence under Cumann na nGaedheal[edit]

It was only with the acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by both the Dáil and British House of Commons in 1922 that the mechanisms of a truly independent state begin to emerge in the Irish Free State. In keeping with many other decisions of the newly independent state the Provisional Government and later the Free State government continued with the same practices and policies of the iriash administration with regard to corporate taxation.

This continuation meant that the British system of corporate profits taxation (CPT) in addition to income tax on the profits of firms was kept. The CPT was a relatively new innovation in the United Kingdom and had only been introduced in the years after World War I, and was widely believed at the time to have been a temporary measure. However, the system of firms being taxed firstly through income taxed and then through the CPT was to remain until the late seventies and the introduction of Corporation Tax, which combined the income and corporation profits tax in one.

During the years of William Cosgrave's governments, the principal aim with regard to fiscal policy was to reduce expenditure and follow that with similar reductions in taxation. This policy of tax reduction did not extend to the rate of the CPT, but companies did benefit from two particular measures of the Cosgrave government. Firstly, and probably the achievement of which the Cumann na nGaedheal administration was most proud, was the reduction by 50% in the rate of income tax from 6 shillings in the pound to 3 shillings. While this measure benefited all income earners, be they private individuals or incorporated companies, a number of adjustments in the Finance Acts, culminating in 1928, increased the allowance on which firms were not subject to taxation under the CPT. This allowance was increased from £500, the rate at the time of independence, to £10,000 in 1928. This measure was in part to compensate Irish firms for the continuation of the CPT after it has been abolished in the United Kingdom.

A measure which marked the last years of the Cumann na nGaedheal government, and one that was out of kilter with their general free trade policy, but which came primarily as a result of Fianna Fáil pressure over the 'protection' of Irish industry, was the introduction of a higher rate of CPT for foreign firms. This measure survived until 1948, when the Inter-Party government rescinded it, as many countries with which the government was attempting to come to double taxation treaties viewed it as discriminatory.

Fianna Fáil under Éamon de Valera[edit]

The near twenty years of Fianna Fáíl government between from 1931 to 1948, cannot be said to have been a time where much effort was expended on changing or analysing the taxation system of corporations. Indeed, only one policy sticks out during those year of Fianna Fáil rule; being the continued reduction in the level of the allowance on which firms were to be exempt from taxation under the CPT, from £10,000 when Cumman na nGaehael left office, to £5,000 in 1932 and finally to £2,500 in 1941. The impact of this can be seen in the increasing importance of CPT as a percentage of government revenue, rising from and less than 1% of tax revenue in the first decade of the Free State to 3.64% in the decade 1942–43 to 1951–52. This increase in revenue from the CPT was due to more firms being in the tax net, as well as the reduction in allowances. The increased tax net can be seen from the fact that between 1932–33 and 1938–39, the number of firms paying CPT increased by over 33%. One other aspect of the Fianna Fáil government which bears all the fingerprints of Seán Lemass, was the 1946 decision to allow mining companies to write off all capital expenditure against tax over five years.

Seán Lemass and after[edit]

The period between after the late 1950s and up to the mid-1970s can be viewed as a period of radical change in the evolution of the Irish Corporate Taxations system. The increasing realisation of the government that Ireland would be entering into an age of increasing free trade encouraged a number of reforms of the tax system. By the mid-1970s, a number of amendments, additions and changes had been made to the CPT, these included fifteen-year tax holidays for exporting firms, the decision by the government to allow full depreciation in 1971 and in 1973, and the Section 34 of the Finance Act, which allowed total tax relief in respect of royalties and other income from licenses patented in Ireland.

This period from c.1956 to c.1975, is probably the most influential on the evolution of the Irish corporate taxation system, and marked the development of an 'Irish' system, rather than continuing with a British model.

This period saw the creation of Corporation Tax, which combined the Capital Gains, Income and Corporation Profits Tax that firms previously had to pay. Future changes to the corporate tax system, such as the measures implemented by various governments over the last twenty years can be seen as a continuation of the policies of this period. The introduction in 1981 of the 10% tax on manufacturing was simply the easiest way to adjust to the demands of the EEC to abolish the export relief, which the EEC viewed as discriminatory. With the accession to the EEC, the advantages of this policy became increasingly obvious to both the Irish government and to foreign multi-nationals; by 1982 over 80% of companies who located in Ireland cited the taxation policy as the primary reason they did so.

Corporation tax was reduced to 12.5% on trading income.[4] This is generally believed to have been an important stimulus for the Celtic Tiger.

In the 1998 Budget (in December 1997) Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy[5] introduced the legislation for a new regime of corporation tax that led to the introduction of the 12.5% rate of corporation tax for trading income from 1 January 2003. The legislation was contained in section 71 of the Finance Act 1999 and provided for a phased introduction of the 12.5% rate from 32% for the financial year 1998 to 12.5% commencing from 1 January 2003. A higher rate of corporation tax of 25% was introduced for passive income, income from a foreign trade and some development and mining activities. Manufacturing relief, effectively a 10% rate of corporation tax, was ended on 31 December 2002. For companies that were claiming this relief before 23 July 1998 it would still be available until 31 January 2010. The 10% rate for IFSC activiites ended on 31 December 2005 and after this date these companies moved to the 12.5% rate provided their trade qualified as an Irish trading activity.

Corporate tax inversions[edit]

Ireland is a centre of corporate tax inversions, a common strategy in which a United States-based company takes over a foreign company and shifts its headquarters overseas to a country, such as Ireland, with low corporate tax rates.[6] Such corporate inversions were performed by medical device manufacturer Medtronic (which bought Covidien and reincorporated in Ireland) and Johnson Controls (which merged with Tyco International and moved to Cork, Ireland).[6]

This strategy has helped Ireland bolster its GDP growth, but is politically controversial in the U.S. because it lowers U.S. tax revenue.[6] In April 2016, the U.S. government announced new rules in a bid to reduce the economic incentives to perform corporate tax inversions.[6] The changes in U.S. policy caused a planned merger between the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Irish pharmaceutical company Allergan to be dropped.[6]

Apple tax ruling controversy of 2016[edit]

There is an ongoing dispute between the European Commission, the Government of Ireland and the Irish branch of Apple Sales International, a subsidiary of Apple Inc. The European Commission found out that because of two tax rulings granted by the Irish government, Apple only paid an effective corporate tax rate that declined from 1% in 2003 to 0.005% in 2014 on the profits of Apple Sales International. The European Commission declared those rulings illegal State aid and ordered the Government of Ireland to recover from Apple €13 billion, plus interest as unpaid taxes. [7]
The Government of Ireland appealed against the decision and as of December 2016 the case is still open.

Inward investment[edit]

The low corporate tax rate in Ireland has contributed to inward investment in Ireland and the Celtic Tiger phenomenon.[8] The low tax rate and Ireland's relaxed transfer pricing rules have also encouraged the use of Ireland in international tax planning, for example the use of the Double Irish arrangement.

Yearly returns[edit]

2001 to present (Euro bn)[edit]

Year Corporation Tax Total Tax Revenue Total Revenue Reference
2001 4.16 27.93 28.74 [9] (restated)
2002 4.80 29.29 31.53 [9]
2003 5.16 32.10 33.16 [10]
2004 5.33 35.58 36.38 [11]
2005 5.49 39.25 39.85 [12]
2006 6.68 45.54 46.14 [13]
2007 6.39 47.25 47.89 [14]
2008 5.07 40.78 41.62 [15]
2009 3.90 33.04 33.88 [16]
2010 3.924 31.752 34.44 [17]
2011 3.520 34.027 36.801 [18]
2012 4.216 36.646 39.466 [19]
2013 4.270 37.806 40.482 [20]
2014 4.614 41.282 44.248 [21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  3. ^ "European Commission press release". European Commission. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e David Jolly, Ireland, Home to U.S. ‘Inversions,’ Sees Huge Growth in G.D.P., New York Times (December 12, 2016).
  7. ^ "European Commission press release". European Commission. 
  8. ^ "Low-tax policies created the Tiger (Ireland's Economy)". Irish Independent. 24 October 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2006. 
  9. ^ a b "Finance Accounts 2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Finance Accounts 2003" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  11. ^ "wsC3.tmp" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "Finance Accounts 2005 - Final 25 Sept.XLS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  13. ^ "Fin Accounts 2006 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "Fin Accounts 2007 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "Fin Accounts 2008 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "Fin Accounts 2009 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  17. ^ "Fin Accounts 2010 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  18. ^ "Fin Accounts 2011 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "Fin Accounts 2012 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  20. ^ "Fin Accounts 2013 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "Fin Accounts 2014 English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Stewart, JC, Corporate Finance and Fiscal Policy in Ireland, Aldershot, England, 1987
  • O' Malley, Industry and Economic Development, Dublin 1989
  • Proposals for Corporation Tax, Dublin, 1974
  • Quigley, Dermot, The Impact of EU Membership on Taxation in The Fiscal Impact of EU Membership on *Ireland, Proceedings of the Tenth annual Conference of the Foundation for Fiscal Studies, Dublin 1997
  • White Paper on Industrial Policy, Dublin, 1984
  • Telesis, A review of Industrial Policy, Dublin, 1982
  • Second Report of the Commission on Taxation – Direct Taxation and the role of Incentives, Dublin, 1984
  • Company Taxation in Ireland, Dublin, 1972
  • Programme for Economic Expansion, Dublin, 1958
  • Revenue Commissioners
  • Finance Accounts 1922–2002
  • OECD Papers:
  • Taxing Profits in a Global Economy – Domestic and International Issues, Paris, 1991
  • Company Tax Systems in OECD Countries, Paris, 1973
  • Harmful Taxation Competition, An Emerging Global Issues, Paris, 1998
  • IDA Ireland – Tax