07 September 2009: Arts Council to argue for continuation of artists’ tax exemption

The Arts Council has said it will make a strong case to Government for the retention of the artists’ tax exemption scheme.

Ms Pat Moylan, Chairman of the Arts Council, said the Council’s unequivocal advice to the Minister for Finance and the Government will be that the artists’ exemption scheme should be retained in its entirety.

"The Arts Council disagrees with the recommendation of the Commission on Taxation.  As the Diaspora event at Farmleigh will confirm when it debates this matter in two weeks’ time, Ireland has a tremendous opportunity to promote itself in a positive way through our global cultural profile.  If the exemption was withdrawn, a situation would be created where there would be pressure on that profile," Ms Moylan said.

"If the exemption goes, we could lose entirely, or in part, to the art world or other jurisdictions, a considerable number of artists.  This would not be for the public good."

She warned that if the exemption were scrapped, it would discourage artists who might think, at the early stages of their careers, that they have the potential for very significant commercial success from staying in Ireland.  It could also discourage people from continuing with a career in the arts.

"The artists’ exemption scheme is not a ‘rich man’s’ relief as has been portrayed in some quarters.  The greatest number of its beneficiaries struggle for financial viability on a year-on-year basis.  This is true of relatively unknown beneficiaries, as well as certain of Ireland’s most internationally renowned and critically acclaimed artists.

"Arts Council research has shown that over half the beneficiaries of the Scheme have average earnings of less than half the minimum wage.  Of the two per cent who are considered high earners, most of whom are in popular music and writing, only one-third of their income qualifies for the relief. 

"It is important for Ireland to have artists of world renown resident in Ireland, just for example Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Patricia Scanlan, the Corrs, U2, Enya, Westlife, Boyzone, the Cranberries, Paul Brady, Louis le Brocquy, Robert Ballagh, Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan, Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Marion Keyes - and there are many others.

"Apart from the global perception this creates for Ireland, it has helped put in place world class local infrastructures in artistic management and technical expertise.  For up and coming artists, this is of considerable assistance.  Without the high earners, who support the infrastructure in a major way, this professional layer would be lost to Ireland."

"The Arts Council, based on figures from a few years ago, had worked out that if the exemption were scrapped and artists leave Ireland, the Exchequer could be foregoing some €36 million in tax revenue - far more than it will bring in!"

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Yelemba dance troupe from the Ivory Coast - Clonmel Junction Festival.

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