UK groups hold firm in Ireland

SOME of the most high-profile corporate emigrants to the Irish tax regime told City A.M. yesterday they are not yet considering a move away from the country, with UK rules on controlled foreign companies (CFCs) influencing their decision more than the total tax rate.

Now that the Irish government has admitted it will seek bailout funds from the European Union, contributing member states are expected to demand an increase in the country’s favourable corporate tax rate, which has stood at 12.5 per cent since 2003. Though finance minister Brian Lenihan insists a tax rise is not on the table, he might not be in control.

Though the corporation tax rate is the lowest of a major European economy, it is Ireland’s lack of a formal CFC regime that makes it especially popular – particularly for companies with large foreign profits.

Since the 2008 UK budget added anti-avoidance measures for CFCs, several companies have set up in Dublin.

Pharmaceutical firm Shire was one of the first to move in April that year. “The decision to move wasn’t based on the lower tax rate but the way tax is applied to foreign companies in the UK,” said a spokesperson for Shire. “There’s no discussion of a move back going on behind the scenes – this is the nature of the environment we moved to and there’s no indication that will change.”

The Henderson Group also said it had no plans to reassess its position. “The Group made the decision to move with long-term prospects in mind,” said a spokesperson. WPP, the gaint advertising group, said much the same. UBM, which moved in April 2008, declined to comment.

Though the UK Treasury launched a consultation in January to relax the CFC regime, change is unlikely before 2012.

Several US companies in Ireland are understood to have issued a warning that a rise in corporate tax rates would reduce investment in the country and harm competitiveness.

TIME LINE |

The firms that made the move

Shire
The pharmaceuticals company was the first to jump ship in April 2008, establishing a new parent company tax-resident in Ireland.

United Business Media
Later in April UBM also launched a holding company in Ireland. It cited international growth as the catalyst, with 85 per cent of its profits now coming from overseas.

Henderson Group
The asset management firm moved its holding company to Dublin in October 2008. At its 2009 AGM the company told investors that it would now pay 20 per cent corporate tax, compared to the UK’s 28 per cent.

WPP
The advertising group made its move to Ireland, with outspoken chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell warning that unless UK tax laws on foreign companies change it wouldn’t be the last to go.

Northern Foods/Greencore
The food retailers announced their intention to merge last week. New company Essenta will be headquartered in Ireland to take advantage of the 12.5 per cent tax rate.