I sent in a letter to the Irish Times regarding this issue, which was published today. It reads as follows:
Madam, – I was deeply disappointed, but unsurprised, to learn that former Taoiseach Patrick “Bertie” Ahern has managed to get on to the list of tax-exempt artists, meaning he can earn up to €125,000 on his new book without having to pay tax. This is on top of the very generous salary and pensions he receives from the public purse.
While there can be no doubt Mr Ahern is entitled to claim this tax break, he is by no means obliged to.
It would have been a welcome sign if he had chosen to forego this tax break, and instead contributed more to the empty State coffers.
It is regrettable that, with the country on its knees, and a huge chasm between the amount coming into the State and the amount being spent, that a former minister and Taoiseach, already in receipt of vast sums of State money, would begrudge his country such a comparatively small amount.
I hope Mr Ahern reverses his decision to claim this tax deduction, the purpose of which is to support and reward struggling artists, not politicians. – Yours, etc,
It is surprising that this issue has not received more attention in the mainstream media, especially when it is considered that most blogs and bulletin boards have picked up on this story, and there has been a huge amount of interest in it. There have been (so far) no editorials on the matter, and while I understand that the issue was briefly discussed on radio, there has been very little print space dedicated to a truly shocking story.
To put it plainly: The former Taoiseach, who is still in the Dáil, has decided that, as well as taking a lot of time off to do a book tour, he will, at a time when the country is struggling financially, claim a very generous tax-break on the first €125,000 that he will earn from his book. This will cover only part of his advance for the book (rumoured to be over 400k), and will be on top of his Dáil salary. As well as that, Mr Ahern claimed over €111,000 as part of his pension in 2008.
A former leader of this country claiming this tax break at a time when the country’s coffers are being scraped for every cent, especially when one considers the large amount of money received by Mr Ahern from the state, shows an appalling dearth of patriotism.
The purpose of the Artists Exemption is to encourage struggling artists to contribute to the strong artistic credentials of this country, not to allow politicians writing once-off autobiographies to keep a larger percentage of their advance.
I was disappointed to note that prominent Labour politician and former Minister for Finance Ruari Quinn is also present on the list. Mr Quinn claimed tax-exempt status for his autobiography “Straight Left – A journey in Irish Politics” which was published in 2005. As the earning cap was only introduced in 2006, it is likely that Mr. Quinn may have actually received more money tax-free than Mr. Ahern. While Mr. Quinn is not a former Taoiseach, and he claimed the money during the boom years, it is still disappointing that he did so, especially when one considers that he has been drawing a ministerial pension, that in 2008, paid him over €40,000 on top of his Dáil salary.
Mr. Ahern should do the honorable thing and pay his taxes, setting an example for the rest of the country.
The fact that a prominant politician paying his taxes constitutes an example in this country is beyond sad.