Irish government comes down off the fence on country by country reporting

June 15th, 2010

Government Buildings in Dublin houses the Irish Department of Finance.

In May 2010, Christian Aid published a report entitled ‘Tax of Life’ highlighting the impact of tax dodging on Irish Aid programme countries. It’s a somewhat obvious point. Why would a country in times of austerity give aid to a country without considering the impact of international policies on the ability of that country to develop.

Tax is something that is growing in importance in the development world. The European Council recently published conclusions which approved a paper emphasising the importance of tax for development and the need to explore transparency standards such as Country-by-Country reporting and Automatic Exchange of Information – recommendations which taskforce members have been pushing for some time.

Back in Dublin, the government’s committee on Foreign Affairs were so struck by Christian Aid’s report that they called in the relevant government departments to give an account of what they were doing about the problem of tax dodging.

This led to a somewhat humorous exchange where Senator David Norris accused the Department of Finance Official of sitting on the fence when it comes to Country-by-Country:

Senator David Norris: Mr. Tobin may have slightly misunderstood the question, although it may well be the case that I am thick. While he gave a useful historical account of the current position and the role Ireland plays in this area, he hedged his bets. I am curious to ascertain whether Ireland is actively in favour of country-by-country reporting and if this support is expressed at international levels.

Mr. Gary Tobin: I can honestly say that it is rare for the Department of Finance to sit on the fence. We tend to take either a black or white position on issues. Irish Aid views country-by-country reporting as a multilateral issue. Ireland can and does contribute to the debate but the issue is essentially being driven at—–

Senator David Norris: Mr. Tobin is sitting on the fence.

Mr. Gary Tobin: No.

Senator David Norris: Of course he is.

Mr. Gary Tobin: If the Senator would let me finish—–

Senator David Norris: I would be very pleased with a “Yes” or “No” reply.

Mr. Gary Tobin: We have absolutely no objection to country-by-country reporting. We are participating in the OECD and EU processes that are trying to drive it forward. Having said that, if country-by-country reporting is agreed and implemented, then we want it to work.

So there we have it – Ireland has “absolutely no objection to country-by-country reporting.“ With a growing number of governments in support and businesses recognising the value of transparency if feels to me like the tide is turning.

Written by David McNair

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