Discourse on tax and human rights is somewhat recent, but has firmly established tax policy as a human rights issue with implications for citizen’s enjoyment of these rights in both Ireland and developing countries. The next General Election comes at an important time in Irish history, as we begin to move away from financial crisis and mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising, which provides an opportunity to reflect on our priorities as a state as well as our impact and relationship with other countries. Equally, 2015 has been a significant year internationally with Ireland’s participation in the Financing for Development Conference, the Climate Change Conference and our central role as co-facilitators of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Having agreed upon ambitious global goals, we now have the opportunity and challenge of implementing the sustainable development agenda and Ireland’s policies and practices will be crucial to their success at home and abroad.
Tax Justice Network Ireland has identified tax avoidance and harmful tax practices as a structural cause of poverty and a key inhibitor to the realisation of human rights. The IMF estimates that developing countries lose $200bn a year to tax dodging, money which could be used to finance vital public services and realise human rights. Tax justice has been increasingly on the global agenda and despite Ireland’s role as an international leader in the field of human rights, Ireland’s tax regime has attracted significant criticism for enabling aggressive tax minimisation and avoidance, potentially depriving developing countries of much-needed revenue to finance human rights.
Ireland, due to our strong international reputation, has been at the forefront of international discussions and initiatives to help shape this new reality of worldwide inter-dependence.The next elections should reflect that Ireland is “a global island”, demonstrating commitment to human rights for all people and leadership domestically and internationally in addressing harmful tax practices as a structural cause of poverty.
- All parties should promote greater corporate transparency by introducing public country by country reporting for multinational companies.
- All parties should commit to introducing a publicly accessible register of the names of the beneficial owners of companies and trusts.
- All parties should commit to the development of a tax and human rights policy, within the first 24 months in office, in line with Ireland’s international and domestic obligations.
- All parties should commit to carrying out a follow up spillover analysis within their term in office. This should follow on from the Spillover Analysis of 2015, and should commit to addressing the notable gaps of that analysis; specifically parties should commit to:
- Ensuring that future spillover analyses examine how Ireland’s tax system interacts with other country’s systems, particularly within the EU. Looking at Ireland’s tax system in isolation from how it interacts with other countries such as Luxembourg or the Netherlands is a significant omission in the spillover analysis of 2015.
- Ensuring the necessary company data is made available to allow for a comprehensive picture to be drawn of the extent of Ireland’s spillover impact on developing countries.
- All parties should commit to carrying out an impact assessment on all aspects of budget measures. This was a recommendation contained in the official report by former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona after her visit to Ireland in 2014. This analysis should be published together with the other budget documents (e.g. financial costing of measures) on the Department of Finance website at budget time to allow for the greatest possible level of public engagement.
- All parties should commit to expanding the scope of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Human Rights relative to Justice and Equality matters to include issues of fiscal and tax policy, and our international obligations under international and European law, including the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- All parties should ensure that double taxation treaties negotiated with developing countries should include an anti-abuse clause and respect domestic taxation rates in order to ensure they cannot be used for non-taxation and tax avoidance. Draft double taxation treaties should be considered across government departments with specific consideration by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Finance. Draft double taxation treaties should be open for public consultation as well as parliamentary discussion in advance of signing and ratification.
- All parties should ensure that tax and fiscal policies are in line with One World, One Future Ireland’s Policy for International Development, binding EU policy coherence for development commitments under the Lisbon Treaty, and development objectives. This should be subject to review after an agreed period (e.g. biannually) by the interdepartmental committee on policy coherence for development, the inter-departmental coordination mechanism initiated for the 2030 Agenda or a similar mechanism.
- All parties should commit to greater transparency in relation to tax rulings, publishing at a minimum:
– The basic elements of all tax rulings, including a potential cost to the state through tax revenues foregone.
– Summary information on the number and scope of requests for tax rulings rejected by The Office of the Revenue Commissioners on the basis that they might be intended for tax avoidance.
- All parties should ensure a full Oireachtas debate takes place on the findings of the European Commission’s investigation into Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple subsidiaries in Ireland. This should inform any decision taken by the state in relation to an appeal.
For further information please contact:
Sorley McCaughey, SMcCaughey [at] christian-aid.org /01-4967040 or
Olivia Lally, olivia.lally [at] actionaid.org / 01-8147055
 A/HRC/26/28, Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/033/74/PDF/G1403374.pdf?OpenElement
 One World, One Future Ireland’s Policy for International Development- Irish Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. https://www.irishaid.ie/media/irishaid/allwebsitemedia/20newsandpublications/publicationpdfsenglish/one-world-one-future-irelands-new-policy.pdf