Just three firms accounted for a third of all corporate tax receipts between 2017 and 2021, according to a new report by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (Ifac), which suggests Ireland’s business tax base is even more concentrated around a small number of firms than previously thought.
The report, which draws on publicly available financial statements, does not name the three firms but they are likely to come from a shortlist that includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Meta, Pfizer and Intel.
The council said the share of tax receipts paid by these three groups “remained high and close to a third” throughout the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, amounting to €5.2 billion in 2021, equivalent to 8 per cent of total tax receipts.
Based on provisional results for 2022, it estimates the total was even higher in 2022. Corporate tax receipts generated more than €15 billion for the Irish exchequer in 2021 and a record €22.6 billion last year.
Revenue Commissioner data for 2022 shows 60 per cent of receipts are paid by just 10 corporate groups. The council estimated that two sectors – ICT and pharma-chem – accounted for more than 90 per cent of the tax paid by these 10 firms.
The report warned that Ireland’s public finances have become increasingly reliant on corporation tax receipts.
In 1984, corporation tax receipts comprised just 4 per cent of tax revenue, it said. However, by 2022, they accounted for a quarter of receipts, having overtaken VAT receipts in terms of their importance.
“The increased reliance on and concentration of corporation tax receipts carries significant risks. It means that firm- or sector-specific shocks matter greatly for Ireland’s tax take,” the council said.
“Changes to senior management, ending of patents, group restructurings, regulatory changes, international tax changes, pivots to new products, sudden changes in consumer preferences or sharp changes in profitability could all potentially have a material impact on tax revenues,” it said.
Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has published plans for a new State savings vehicle, along the lines of the former National Pension Reserve Fund, to ringfence “excess” corporation tax receipts so they can be used to shore up the State’s finances at a future date.
The Republic’s ageing population, combined with other financial pressures related to climate and digitisation, are expected to cost the exchequer an additional €7-€8 billion in “standstill” costs by 2030.
Commenting on the Ifac report, the council chairman Sebastian Barnes said: “This new analysis shows how dependent Irish corporation tax receipts are on a handful of big multinational companies.
“It underlines that the Government should not use risky excess corporation tax payments to fund permanent spending increases or permanent tax cuts. Saving these receipts in a national reserve fund would help to prepare Ireland for future challenges,” he said.