Bono the tax dodger wants others’ taxes spent on Africa

By Lucy Komisar
May 16, 2007

Paul Hewson, known as Bono, the rock star, is complaining that the seven wealthy nations in the G-7 that had promised to double aid to the developing world by 2010, are more than half behind target. The countries are the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Bono‘s protest at a Berlin news conference Monday Bonomight be taken more seriously if he and his U2 band were not contributing to the system that deprives developing countries of far more than western aid – much of which has to be repaid.

Bono is a tax dodger. The Irish Bono ran his music publishing company in Ireland, where he and his partners took advantage of a law that exempted musicians and artists from taxes on royalties. To dodge taxes on non-royalty income, Bono‘s interests had the help of offshore nominee directors.

Bono Georgegets no argument from George W. Bush, who has blocked mild European attempts to get tax havens to stop helping the wealthy hide incomes from taxes.

The Irish royalty exemption was begun to aid and reward creative artists, in hopes of encouraging the struggling kind, not to further enrich mega-millionaires like Bono. Last year, the law was changed. From 2007, artists who earn more than $625,450 must pay tax on half their creative income. It hardly seems a harsh measure.

Bono‘s Dublin company earned $110 million in 2005. Taking profits through the company rather than individually, Bono would have had to pay only 12.5 percent corporate tax, a rate still below that of the local bus conductor or plumber or school teacher.

But that apparently was too much for the man who has homes on the Irish Coast and in the South of France and New York City. So, last year, Bono moved the registration of his business to the Netherlands, where it will pay about 5 percent tax on royalties.

Maybe Ireland and the countries of the G-7 could provide more development aid if Bono and people like him didn‘t dodge their fair taxes.

What might the people in the countries he wants to help think about this? The same move your registration to the lowest tax rate system that Bono uses is employed by multinational corporations to dodge taxes worldwide.

Developing countries lose an estimated $500 billion every year as a result.

As Africa is the continent Bono expresses most concern about, he ought to listen to what the African Union says: Tax dodging by foreign companies costs it $150 billion a year – three times what it receives in aid.

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6 Responses to "Bono the tax dodger wants others’ taxes spent on Africa"

  1. Alex Yearsley   May 18, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Brilliant stuff…..time these guys put their money – er literally – where their mouths and PR machines are….now for the rest….Sir Bob come on down….i mean who wants their money sloshing around with all that money from organised crime, drugs, arms and terrorism… flight reality check…

    LK: Alex Yearsley is campaign coordinator of Global Witness, a London-based civil society organization that does major investigations about how Africa’s wealth in oil, minerals, forests, diamonds and other natural resources is stolen by corrupt officials in league with multinational corporations, all using the offshore system to hide and launder bribes and kickbacks. See Global Witness reports.

  2. Brett   May 20, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Great stuff. On target.

  3. John ChristensenLK   May 21, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Right on target. The quicker G-8 addresses the ongoing scandal of tax dodging, which also costs western democracies billions annually and increases inequality around the world, the sooner we can move the development agenda beyond aid and debt, and on to how poorer countries can help their poor people with their own resources. Wake up, Bono, and everyone else who claims to want to help poor people.


    LK:John Christensen is the director of the Tax Justice Network, headquartered in London.

  4. Orwell's ghost   Jun 26, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I agree entirely. The problem is people like Bono are hypocrites who manipulate the system for their own greed. Their faux concern is more to do with their egos and making them feel better about their excessive wealth.

    Another fine example is Prince Charles, today it was reported he paid a little over 20% income tax on his £15,000,000 income last year. The average poorly paid worker in the UK pays a minimum of 23%, which rises to 40% at a paltry £32,000 per year.

    So yet again special rules are in place for the seriously wealthy or powerful. The mainstream media don‘t question this, they simply reprint the bull about his ‘carbon footprint’ and how ecologically friendly he‘s been – not the fact that he‘s dodging tax whilst hundreds of thousands in the UK are struggling with rising debt and poverty.

  5. HipHopHustler   Oct 30, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I also read on that of the $32 million U2 made last year, $25.8 went to five unidentified employees….hmmm, AND that they moved their corporate offices out of Ireland to avoid taxes…this is really gonna mess with his’s about time.

  6. fi   Dec 18, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    The Irish Labour party’s finance spokeswoman, Joan Burton, said this week: “Having listened to Bono on the necessity for the Irish government to give more money to Ireland Aid … I am surprised that U2 are not prepared to contribute to the exchequer on a fair basis along with the bulk of Irish taxpayers.”


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