I’m delighted to welcome you all to Dublin Castle for today’s dialogue.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to extend a particular welcome to our international speakers, who join us today from locations as far away as New York and Pretoria. We also welcome our speakers from Paris, Brussels, England and Scotland.
I believe it is very important that we in Ireland ground our discussions today with due regard for the wider international context. Our dialogue should be cognisant of latest developments and international initiatives underway at the United Nations, the OECD, and the European Union, as well as progress in developing countries themselves. That is why the participation of our international speakers at today’s proceedings is so welcome.
Today’s dialogue brings together Irish and international industry leaders, policy makers and civil society to discuss the issues of tax, fairness, responsibility and leadership, with a particular focus on the issues that arise for the developing world.
As is evident from the programme, and from the representative audience present here today, this is both an important and complex issue. That is why dialogue and differing stakeholder perspectives matter so much.
My hope is that today will provide you with an opportunity not just for an exchange of information, but a platform for real dialogue and exchange of perspectives.
Tax Reform - International Context
In a globalised world, it is important that each country’s corporate tax policy is responsive to changes in international best practice. The OECD BEPS project has seen the emergence of a remarkable - and unprecedented - international consensus on global tax reform.
We should not underestimate the scale of the OECD’s achievement, through the BEPS project, in agreeing 15 major actions designed to reshape the entire international tax landscape. Focus now is very much on the implementation of these newly agreed standards.
Ireland is playing a full and active part in this work, and in fact we have been an early-mover in the BEPS project, both domestically and at EU level. We are a strong supporter of tax transparency and administrative cooperation as keys to tackling the global problems of tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning.
We have also been party to key developments in exchange of information on tax rulings and country-by-country reporting, as well as the EU’s Anti Tax Avoidance Directive.
We have made important adjustments to our legislation to ensure that we continue to compete from a place of leadership and compliance with international best practice.
While Ireland fights vigorously for mobile foreign direct investment, we fight fair. Our statute based 12.5% corporation tax rate is transparent and it remains a cornerstone of Irish industrial policy.
The evolution of technology and new global patterns in trade has resulted in the global tax policy landscape substantially increasing in complexity. It is important for policy-makers to remain aware that developing countries face particular challenges as a consequence.
It is, of course, essential that tax reforms agreed internationally are in the best interests of both the developed and the developing world. In debating the ongoing challenges that arise for the developing world in relation to international tax issues, it is vital that all voices are heard.
The creation of the BEPS Inclusive Framework, which over 90 countries have already signed up to, is a powerful signal that global tax reform will be inclusive.
I expect that our speakers from the OECD, the United Nations and the EU Council Secretariat will reiterate the importance of an inclusive approach in discussions on tax and development.
Developing countries – and developed countries alike – are facing an ever more complex and demanding set of challenges – as the Sustainable Development Goals describe so comprehensively.
The key to addressing so many of the sustainable development goals, from poverty reduction, increasing education and health care standards, tackling climate change and inequality, to name but a few, lies in increased and new forms of investment.
Ireland, of course, has a long history of providing overseas aid and assistance to developing countries.
However, we have long understood and recognised that development aid, as we traditionally define it, is by itself insufficient to address the major challenges that the global community is facing today.
The ability of developing countries to raise domestic tax revenues will be a key factor in helping those countries to develop and grow their economies, and tackle the serious development issues that they face. There are a number of ways in which Ireland provides support to help build capacity in developing countries.
Irish Aid plays an important role in this area. For example, they provide financial assistance to the African Tax Administration Forum which supports the development of tax administrations in Africa. I am delighted that Logan Wort from ATAF will be speaking on this later today. Irish Aid also supports the OECD Tax and Development Programme which aims to enhance the enabling environment for developing countries to collect appropriate and adequate tax revenues and to build effective states.
These initiatives all reflect Ireland’s “One World, One Future” policy for international development. It commits to an all-of-government approach to international development and recognises that the achievement of international development goals must be underpinned by the ability of all countries, including developing countries, to raise their own revenue.
Developed countries must show leadership in developing a fair and responsible global tax system. I’m pleased that you will hear today about some of the work that Ireland is engaging in to support developing nations.
I’m also delighted that you will hear from Minister Zappone and Minister of State McHugh about a new commitment by Ireland to the Addis Tax Initiative, which was approved by Government earlier this week.
Companies must also play their part. I’m pleased that so many companies have been able to attend today’s event, and I hope that today provides them an opportunity to share their perspectives on these important issues.
Paying tax into public finances is clearly part of how business contributes to society. It is apparent that tax is more and more being seen as a corporate responsibility issue. Leading companies are now thinking about where tax fits into their approach and strategy on corporate responsibility.
There is also a challenge for companies to consider how they communicate their tax affairs and highlight the undoubted contribution that they make to society.
We have a number of speakers from the UK who will bring valuable perspectives to this discussion.
As I said at the outset, today is not just about listening to updates on current developments – it is about hearing different perspectives on what the challenges and opportunities to address these challenges are.
I wish you all a productive day’s discussions.