It’s my last editorial of 2017, and seeing as I started the year off with aspirations and positivity, I’m ending on a more cynical note, which seems true to form for the rest of my life too. Gracing headlines currently are the Paradise Papers, which bring to mind lovely sun holidays and relaxation, but in reality are just depressing because celebrities we might have thought were sound, aren’t. Many internationally-recognised names have reluctantly hit the headlines in making these Papers, including global brands like Nike and Apple, and even the Queen of England, God Save Her Tax Returns. Bono has been particularly vocal about his “extreme distress” following revelations from the Papers that some of his business ventures may have been less than legitimate. He has described himself as merely a “passive investor” in a business located in the renowned tax haven of Malta, which was used to purchase a shopping centre in Lithuania, and thereby evade stricter tax liabilities there.
Bono is known globally as a celebrity humanitarian and campaigner for poverty-stricken countries. However, it would be remiss not to note the fact that he is also an extremely wealthy and successful businessman. Bono’s claims of welcoming the investigation into his affairs and of his complete lack of involvement in the decision-making of the Maltese investment company are not helped by U2’s decision in 2006 to transfer their tax affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands in order to avoid increased taxes on their royalties.
The Taoiseach has come forward in the wake of the scandal and announced that loopholes in legislation that allow tax evasion will likely always arise, resulting in “a game of cat and mouse,” but stated the Revenue would continue working to outmanoeuvre them. Naturally, very similar statements from Irish politicians were also made following the similar revelations in the Panama Papers. Tax avoidance, especially of a very large degree like the type detailed in the Papers, fuels inequality in a world already divided into rich and poor, undeniably not only in the developed world, but in the developing world too. Bono has good intentions, and while it may be unfair to lump him in with those who deliberately created artificial mechanisms in order to evade paying income tax (looking at you, cast of Mrs Brown’s Boys), this sort of seemingly harmless duplicity and refusal to take responsibility for his actions is exactly the kind of practice that further entrenches the very economic inequalities he campaigns to abolish.