Whether or not Bertie Ahern is an artist or as taoiseach was some sort of artist, it is a joke that he would benefit from a tax exemption system that was introduced in the 1960s to help struggling artists.
I recently noted in a piece on the raft of pre-Christmas books on the Celtic Tiger that it will also be interesting to note how many of the authors who have set out to show how the Irish economy was ruined by a corrupt system that evolved to protect insiders and promote crony capitalism, will take an advantage of the 1960s era tax break for indigent artists and apply to an Inspector of Taxes, who has the odd job of deciding if factual books are works of "artistic merit."
It is of course laughable that an Inspector of Taxes decides on the "artistic merit" of a factual book.
Labour TD Ruairí Quinn, who has availed of the exemption, said there very few direct accounts from Irish politicians of their time in office and this was something that should be encouraged - - the system is already very kind to them and they receive large tax-free sums during their careers and very generous pensions.
“But that’s a separate issue to the one of taxation. I think in the context now where we have a serious shortfall in tax revenue all of these schemes have to be looked at,” he told RTÉ News at One.
The Irish Examiner commented:
BERTIE AHERN did nothing wrong when he secured tax-free status under the artists’ exemption scheme for earnings from his autobiography. This, after all, is small cheese to a man who can claim travel costs even though he has a state car and driver.
But what he did do was to show how daft the scheme is and how discredited it has become. Though a threshold of €125,000 was imposed in last December’s budget, this indulgence, in its current form, is no longer appropriate.
It will have to be reshaped to help artists establish careers but it can’t be open-ended. People should only be allowed avail of if for, say, five years. It should only be available to anyone whose primary income is generated through the arts.
The spirit of the original legislation must be restored because what we have now is a shabby tax dodge of the most offensive kind.