Friday, February 27, 2009

Bono explains his tax position

The claims of hypocrisy leveled at Bono for his inventive approach to taxation is fairly simple.

He's keen to tell governments how to marshal their funds, while simultaneously arranging his personal affairs to both reduce income for the Exchequer in the country that raised and educated him, and of which he claims to be proud, while minimising the tax he - an already wealthy-beyond-the-dreams individual - pays.

Aha - but Bono has an equaly simply explanation of why he isn't a greedy hypocrite:

”We pay millions and millions of dollars in tax. The thing that stung us was the accusation of hypocrisy for my work as an activist.

“I can understand how people outside the country wouldn’t understand how Ireland got to its prosperity but everybody in Ireland knows that there are some very clever people in the Government and in the Revenue who created a financial architecture that prospered the entire nation.

“It was a way of attracting people to this country who wouldn’t normally do business here and the financial services brought billions of dollars every year directly to the Exchequer.

“What’s actually hypocritical is the idea that then you don’t use a financial services centre in Holland. The real question people need to ask about Ireland’s tax policy is:’Was the nation a net gain benefactor?’ and of course it was – hugely so.

“So there was no hypocrisy for me. We’re just part of a system that has benefited the nation greatly and that’s a system that will be closed down in time. Ireland will have to find other ways of being competitive and attractive.”

Right. So, to the charge of 'you are a rich man who calls on governments to do more to help the poorest, while doing all you can to reduce the level of funding available to government' your response is 'isn't it more hypocritical to suggest you shouldn't run your finances through an office in the Netherlands?'

Kudos to the Irish Times for actually having asked Bono about the tax position. That this is breaking some sort of sacrament is shown by the total breakdown in Bono's thought processes. It suddenly becomes clear that he's also folding in the tax breaks for industries offered by the Irish government as well:
When told that Christian Aid had mentioned him in a 2007 report called Death and Taxes: The True Toll of Tax Dodging, he replied:”It hurts when the criticism comes internationally.

“But I can’t speak up without betraying my relationship with the band. So you take the shit. People who don’t know our music – it's very easy for them to take a position on us, they run with the stereotypes and caricature of us.”

In what way does he think Christian Aid might be less critical of their self-serving tax arrangements if they knew U2 music intimately? Is there some backmasking on tracks going "it's not illegal, it's avoidance not evasion" over and over?

The simple truth: you can't simultaneously call on everyone to do more and arrange for yourself to do less. No wonder he doesn't have an answer.

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