By Lucy Komisar
Sept 28, 2023
At the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, Sept 20, 2023.
Q: Lucy Komisar. I’m a journalist. I focus on corporate and financial corruption, but I’m not asking you about that. And I’m really pleased to hear about the change in the tax, that it will be 50 percent, so that American—
VARADKAR: Fifteen (percent). Fifteen (percent).
O’SULLIVAN (moderator): Fifteen (percent).
Q: Fifteen (percent). Oh, sorry. Should be 50 (percent). Fifteen (percent). (Laughter.)
No, but I—
Q: So there’s still, then, a real problem because—so, my mistake. Eh, the mistake of the OECD also.
[OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which deals with the economic interests of mostly high-income countries, after years of concerns about some countries undercutting others with low-bar tax rates showed its inefficacy by agreeing to a 15% tax floor, even below the 21% tax rate for U.S. corporations, which dropped after the Democratic and Republican wings of the Wall Street Party agreed to the cuts. Higher than what individuals, except for hedge fund managers, pay.]
Q: What happens now is that American corporations transfer intellectual property to Ireland so they can then rent it back, pay a lot of money to get it back, cut that amount of money off their U.S. taxes. So Ireland, even with the 15 percent, becomes a tax haven helping U.S. corporations cheat the American people. Do you think that that’s a reputation that you want to continue to have?
VARADKAR: I hope that’s not the reputation we have. (Laughter. [Note CFR membership tends heavily corporate.] And you know, the operations that the U.S. companies have in Ireland, they’re real operations—you know, huge numbers of people employed, a lot of real work being done.
A lot of those issues, I think, are probably more about the U.S.’s own tax laws than ours. And it really is up to the U.S., I think, to amend those laws if it wants to. What we’ll do is be very much within the global framework as set out by the OECD, and we’ll apply that minimum rate. [Which allows U.S. tax cheating.)
Meghan L. O’Sullivan is director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; Member, also Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations
So Taoiseach (pronounced tee-suck) Varadkar and Council board member O’Sullivan appear to think it’s just fine for U.S. corporations to use Ireland to dodge their U.S. taxes, though they don’t mention that those corporations own the Congress that makes the tax laws.
Lucy’s question is 45 minutes in.