We are now in public session. I welcome the Minister for Finance and his officials to the meeting. We are dealing with the double taxation agreement and protocol with the Netherlands and a protocol to the Ireland-Switzerland double taxation convention. I understand that we will also deal with some matters relating to credit unions. We will proceed to the Minister's opening statement.
Double Taxation Relief Orders 2019, Swiss Confederation and Kingdom of the Netherlands
I am pleased to be here to bring two draft Government orders before the committee giving force of law in Ireland to a new replacement double taxation agreement with the Netherlands and a new protocol to the existing double taxation agreement with Switzerland. The new double taxation agreement with the Netherlands was signed by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, on behalf of Ireland and Foreign Minister Stef Blok on behalf of the Netherlands on 13 June 2019 as part of the state visit to Ireland of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of The Netherlands. The protocol to the double taxation agreement with Switzerland was also signed on 13 June 2019 by the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, and the Swiss ambassador to Ireland.
As the committee will recall, arising from the OECD BEPS process, Ireland ratified the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, BEPS, last year. The convention was discussed at this committee and in Dáil Eireann and was included in the Finance Act 2018. The BEPS multilateral convention updates the majority of Ireland's existing double taxation agreements. However, as was indicated to the committee last year, our existing double tax agreements with the Netherlands and Switzerland were not updated by the convention but will instead be updated bilaterally to reflect the BEPS changes. That is what these two agreements before the committee now seek to do.
We also indicated last year that the double taxation agreement with Germany will be updated bilaterally in due course. Discussions are at an advanced stage with Germany in that regard. As for those partner jurisdictions that have not yet signed the BEPS multilateral convention, Ireland has written to them to discuss options for implementing the BEPS recommendations. We are committed to ensuring that all of our double taxation agreements meet the minimum standards agreed in the BEPS process.
A common feature of both the agreement with the Netherlands and the protocol with Switzerland is the incorporation of strong tools for tackling tax treaty abuse and anti-avoidance measures. Both contain the minimum standards committed to during the OECD BEPS project as well as a number of measures that are recommended best practices under BEPS, as agreed bilaterally. The effectiveness of the anti-avoidance tools contained in the BEPS multilateral convention has already been demonstrated with the shutting down of the so-called "single malt" structure. The Maltese and Irish tax authorities signed a competent authority agreement at the end of 2018 that will achieve this by outlining the common understanding of both tax authorities as to how the changes introduced by the convention to the Ireland-Malta double taxation agreement will impact this structure.
Ireland first signed a double taxation agreement, DTA, with the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 11 February 1969. It is one of Ireland’s oldest such agreements. Throughout the past nine years Irish and Dutch authorities have been discussing replacing the existing agreement. In February 2017 discussions were held in Dublin to agree on how best to incorporate the BEPS-related measures into the replacement agreement, as agreed to bilaterally between the two countries. The negotiations were successfully concluded and that agreement is now before the committee.
The new DTA with the Netherlands performs two primary functions. First, the original DTA was agreed to 50 years ago in 1969 and the new agreement which is based on the OECD model tax convention modernises the double taxation relationship between Ireland and the Netherlands. Second, the replacement agreement contains a number of provisions to deal with BEPS which makes the new agreement fully compliant with the standards under the BEPS project. The primary changes in the agreement are, therefore, of an anti-avoidance nature. In particular, the new agreement includes a principal purposes test as agreed to under BEPS action 6. The test ensures any benefit under the double taxation agreement is denied if one of the main purposes of any arrangement is the avoidance of tax.
Similar to the agreement with the Netherlands, the primary purpose of the Ireland-Switzerland protocol before the committee is to update the existing Ireland-Switzerland double taxation agreement to incorporate on a bilateral basis BEPS-related measures. Ireland signed an agreement with the Swiss Confederation on 8 November 1966. It was updated in two protocols, signed in 1980 and 2014. Owing to procedural and legal issues in Switzerland which prevented it from modifying its double taxation agreements through the BEPS multilateral convention, it was agreed that the BEPS measures contained in the convention would be introduced bilaterally. The protocol contains the minimum standards to combat treaty abuse and improve dispute resolution. It also provides for arbitration when the two treaty partners are unable to reach a solution. As with the double taxation agreement with the Netherlands, the principal purposes test is incorporated in the agreement. In effect, the protocol changes the double taxation agreement in the same manner as if the agreement had been modified by the multilateral convention.
The DTA network is an important aspect of our competitiveness in attracting investment. In addition, the agreements are a cornerstone of Ireland's trade policy and stimulate trade and investment flows between countries. They provide for greater predictability and fairness for taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations and are key to the prevention of double taxation.
The benefits of double taxation agreements are well known, but concerns have been expressed that treaties may inadvertently facilitate aggressive tax planning. This concern was central to the BEPS project and the BEPS multilateral convention. Updating our existing double taxation agreements, whether via the multilateral convention or bilaterally, helps to ensure they cannot be used for aggressive tax planning. As has been shown in the competent authority agreement with Malta, the Revenue Commissioners will use the new provisions, where appropriate, to prevent aggressive tax planning. Ireland has been a strong supporter of the OECD BEPS process since its inception and continues to engage positively at EU and OECD level. Proactively updating double taxation agreements is a key example of that work.
If Dáil Éireann approves the making of the orders by the Government, I will include them in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 by way of an amendment in the upcoming Finance Bill. That will enable Ireland to complete the necessary notifications to finalise the ratification of both agreements. I commend the draft orders to the committee. I am happy to answer questions from the Chairman or members.
I welcome the Minister and his officials. I thank him for his opening statement. I only have a few brief questions because we have already approved and ratified the multilateral convention which, as the Minister stated, was included in the Finance Act last year. Why is there a replacement DTA in the case of the Netherlands but a protocol in the case of Switzerland? Both seem to achieve the same objective, namely, giving recognition to the multilateral convention. The Minister referred to particular issues in the Swiss system.
As our negotiations with the Netherlands were so well advanced before the OECD's work was concluded, it was felt it would be more prompt to conclude the agreement by way of ratifying the OECD changes in the agreement, whereas the work with the Swiss authorities took place at a later stage. Therefore, we believe the best way to progress it is via a protocol.
It is a timing issue.
Is it the case that the majority of double taxation agreements were updated automatically as a result of the multilateral convention but these particular agreements were not? The Minister has flagged that the DTA with Germany will need to be updated in due course. Why is it that most were updated automatically but a small number were not?
The answer to the Deputy's first question is "Yes". On the DTA with Germany, it requested that we conclude our negotiations with it bilaterally and then make the changes in a manner similar to that employed in the Dutch model. We will include the changes in the treaty rather than via a multilateral convention.
Apart from giving effect to the multilateral convention, are there other changes being given effect through the new DTA or protocol? The committee dealt with the multilateral convention in the context of BEPS. Are there other changes as a result of this agreement that should be highlighted and brought to the attention of the committee?
The only other change that should be highlighted is that the new double tax agreement now encompasses modern OECD provisions, as well as reflecting Irish or Dutch measures that were agreed to bilaterally. The new double tax agreement is fully compliant with the minimum standards under the OECD base erosion project, as well as incorporating a number of other measures recommended under the BEPS project and agreed to bilaterally between Ireland and the Netherlands. The updates include provisions related to the adjustment of profits of associated companies, more extensive exchange of information provisions and a separate provision on assistance in the collection of taxes.
I am glad that the country is proceeding, albeit slowly, in signing up to the BEPS process to an ever greater extent. It has long been known that the Netherlands tax regime in areas such as copyright earnings from music, etc., is far more favourable to taxpayers such as music groups which might have very significant earnings from royalties. It has been well known for many years that U2 transferred a significant portion of its activities to the Netherlands because of the favourable tax regime. Has this situation been mitigated through the agreement? Is it still advantageous for groups such as U2 to use the Netherlands extensively?
On countries which may have avoidance or reduction mechanisms built into their systems to attract investment and so on, a great deal of material published online via Wikileaks and the Panama papers which was published by an international consortium of journalists disclosed significant international tax avoidance by very wealthy individuals, banks and so on in various countries.
What has Revenue done to examine the situation of persons or corporations of significant wealth who may have been identified or related to some of these information dumps about tax avoidance?
Does the Minister have a view on how our tax structures compare with those of Switzerland and the Netherlands? There is obviously significant competition for international investment and such but I think that most people, including in Ireland, want to see corporations and wealthy individuals paying their fair share of tax. I do not think that is happening in a complete way yet. How are tax authorities in different jurisdictions co-operating? Much of the base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, process is the publication and sharing of information and data. Will the Minister share what has happened in this field that may mean that very wealthy individuals and corporations do not have the same arrangements available to cancel their tax payments entirely? We saw one case mentioned prominently in the papers today about arrangements related to Luxembourg, although we are not talking about it today. Effectively, by off-shoring property and other assets from Ireland, those involved could reduce their tax bill significantly, especially corporate tax bills, though I do not know about personal tax liabilities. Much worrying information came through in the disclosures about tax avoidance. What have Revenue and the Department of Finance done to stop the Irish taxpayer from being taken for a ride?
I thank the Deputy, who will appreciate why I will not comment on the affairs of any particular taxpayer or commentary about them. The Deputy asked if the ratification of this treaty would change tax laws for copyright or any earnings from music. I do not believe they will although I do not have information in front of me about how the Netherlands taxes copyright or income from music.
With regard to how the ratification of this treaty will deal with the issues to which the Deputy referred, much of the answer is contained in Article 22 of the treaty, which is also referenced in the protocol for Switzerland. In Article 22, we are introducing what is referred to as a principal purpose test, PPT. This will deny treaty benefits to taxpayers when one of the principal purposes of any arrangement or transaction carried out by the taxpayer is to obtain a treaty benefit unless it is established that granting the benefit would be in accordance with the provisions of the double taxation agreement, DTA. This seeks to give more power to tax authorities to ensure that the interaction and engagement between different tax jurisdictions does not create an opportunity for highly aggressive tax planning or some of the issues the Deputy has mentioned. Revenue's investigation division has reviewed the material that has come from the various leaks the Deputy has referred to and information that has come into the public domain. I am always willing to make available any resource or additional power that the investigations division of the revenue needs to pursue this work because I know how important it is.
There are two significant changes in dealing with the issues the Deputy referred to but we are only in the early part of them. The first is the exchange of information between different tax authorities that is now enabled by more countries ratifying the OECD convention. I believe it will be a substantial development in ensuring that taxpayers meet the commitments that they have in different countries. It is too early to put a figure on the additional revenue that it has brought to us but I am confident that, over time, that change will make a significant difference to the issues the Deputy raised. The other thing that will accompany that is the global intangible low-taxed income, GILTI, provision under President Trump's corporate tax reforms and the requirement that it now has for American companies to have a minimum tax rate of 13.125%. If one combines that change with the work of the BEPS process, I believe there will be a significant change in the coming period in the ability to evade tax commitments and a consequent increase in tax revenue in different jurisdictions across the world.
A concern that tax justice activists and academics have about double taxation agreements is that they often do not function to avoid double taxation but instead function to, in effect, enable double non-taxation, for corporations to avoid paying tax here when they would have to but also to avoid paying tax in another country because that country does not tax that activity in that way. Does the Minister agree that that is a danger with double taxation agreements in general?
I do not believe that the use of double taxation agreements in the past was a key reason the behaviour that the Deputy refers to happened. This agreement is important with regard to how we will deal with this kind of issue in the future. I draw the Deputy's attention to a number of elements of the agreement that I believe will be important in how we deal with this issue in the future. The preamble is now different to the texts that the Deputy would have seen in the past. It is clear that not only is its purpose to eliminate the risk of double taxation and it is also clear that it does not want to create opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance, including through treaty shopping arrangements. As I mentioned in my opening statement, that preamble was the text that the Revenue Commissioners then used in dealing with some issues that were identified with the use of the so-called and alleged "Single Malt". Article 1 about how hybrids will be treated and Article 22 about the principal purpose test will make an important and positive difference in ensuring that global companies pay a fair level of tax and that this is more transparent.
Does the Minister think that there were problems, potential flaws or loopholes in the generation of double taxation agreements that were signed in the late 1960s and early 1970s? The agreement with Switzerland was signed in 1966 and the agreement with the Netherlands was signed in 1969. The Minister is attempting to rectify some of those issues here. Are similar issues present in other double taxation agreements with other countries?
Regarding whether there are issues in other treaties, there are better standards that all treaties need to implement and if we do not do it bilaterally, where we involve both countries, such as with Germany, the ratification of the multilateral instrument will bring everybody into line. I do not believe these treaties were the cause of the problem in the past.
I believe the bigger issue was the mismatch between different national tax jurisdictions and the opportunities that created for arrangements and for actions to be taken to facilitate highly aggressive tax planning. I believe part of the way we respond to that is by using the agreements to deal with the so-called "single malt", as we have done, and by ensuring that all our treaties with all countries, whether bilateral or through the multilateral convention, meet higher standards.
The mismatch to which the Minister refers is only operable where there is a double taxation agreement as it is the agreement that enables the mismatch to be abused. Can the Minister comment on that?
I appreciate that the Minister will not comment on specific cases but he might comment on the country. As Deputy Bruton said, the Goodman Group is reported in the papers today as having made a profit of €170 million last year but having paid, effectively, zero in taxes by filing accounts in Luxembourg. The double taxation agreement that appears to be still operative with Luxembourg is from 1972 and was agreed a couple of years after the agreement with the Netherlands. Is the Minister looking at revising or adjusting that agreement? From my vantage point, it is a problem when a corporation can make such profits but is enabled to effectively pay zero in tax.
As I said in answer to an earlier question, I will not comment on the tax affairs of a particular company or individual. We will update the double taxation agreement, DTA, between Ireland and Luxembourg via the multilateral convention.
It is interesting that the four countries we are discussing, namely, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, are all in the top seven of what Oxfam described as corporate tax havens. Luxembourg was at No. 7 and Ireland at No. 6, while the Netherlands were third and Switzerland fourth. We have spoken on a number of occasions about whether Ireland is or is not a tax haven. The Minister does not think it is so we will not pursue that ground now. Would the Minister agree that the Netherlands is a tax haven? It uses an innovation box, similar to our own knowledge box, which costs the state €1.2 billion annually and accounts for 7.6% of the country's total income from corporation tax. It facilitates so-called mailbox companies, with 12,000 companies channelling €4 trillion annually through the Netherlands. It does not extensively tax income in the form of dividends and royalties and it has a record of negotiating special tax agreements with multinationals, which Ireland also does. Does the Minister agree that the Netherlands is a tax haven?
No, I do not. I have had engagement with the Dutch finance Minister and I have heard him speak about these issues. Like me, he is a finance Minister in a small open economy and he is very familiar with the need for domestic tax law and corporate tax policy to meet new and different standards. Along with Ireland, he is involved in the work of the OECD in this regard.
It sounds like he gives a similar kind of speech to the ones given by the Government in Ireland, by saying that this needs to be tackled internationally and so on. Would the Minister agree that Switzerland is a corporate tax haven? Some 30% of Fortune 500 companies have operations in Switzerland. It is a relatively small country and one can presume the companies are there to avail of a favourable tax situation. There have also been sweetheart deals in Switzerland with particular multinationals. Like the latest model for tax avoidance in Ireland, it uses patent boxes and knowledge boxes to facilitate corporations extensively getting away with paying extremely low rates of tax.
It is not a description of Switzerland that I would share or use. The other feature that all the economies to which the Deputy refers have is that they are small. I do not believe that competitiveness in the use of tax policy is only the prerogative of large countries but, I as I have argued in this committee in the past, I accept that big and small economies alike need to adjust policies to meet new international standards and respond to issues such as have been raised both here and abroad. I have made the point that not enough recognition is given to Ireland for the change that it has made, in the person of myself and the former Minister, Deputy Noonan, in response to these issues whether through the OECD or with changes we have made ourselves. I am sure that finance Ministers of the countries in question would make a similar point about the changes they have made. For example, the Swiss finance Minister would draw attention to the fact that Swiss authorities now automatically provide very significant amounts of information to other tax authorities relating to the use of bank accounts within the jurisdiction. This allows progress to be made in ensuring that taxes are levied fairly on both big companies and individuals. The progress that has been made in recent years does not get the recognition it merits but we need to continue to make progress.
Does the Minister believe a place must be a tropical island to be a corporate tax haven? Does he accept that any European country is a tax haven?
The Deputy may be about to take me on a tour of the world. The Commissioner, Mr. Moscovici, would say that no country in the European Union meets the global criteria for a tax haven.
I have a question about the two proposals before us. In the case of the Netherlands we are talking about replacing an existing agreement while, in the case of Switzerland, we are dealing with a protocol, which is what we have done in other areas such as when we added a protocol to the Denmark and Luxembourg agreements four or five years ago. Why do we replace an agreement in one case but add a protocol in others?
In the case of Switzerland, neither side has identified the need to renegotiate the double taxation agreement. The existing treaty with Switzerland is one of Ireland's oldest but the protocol to it, signed in 2012, implemented key provisions in respect of OECD standards. Furthermore, it made important amendments to reflect changes in our respective laws. Given the fact that the treaty was recently updated via a protocol, it was judged that the most expedient way to do the work again was via a further protocol, as opposed to a new double taxation agreement. That is not the case with the Netherlands and it was decided that the best course of action with the Netherlands was a new agreement.
What other agreements or protocols are coming down the track?
The work currently under way branches out into three different areas. The next significant bilateral change will be the work we are doing with Germany. The vast majority, if not all, of the other work will be made via the multilateral convention, rather than treaty by treaty. As regards new treaties with other countries, our focus will be on Latin America, Africa and the Far East.
Was 2014 the last time we updated the double taxation agreement with Luxembourg?
It was 2014.
Are there any plans now?
That would be done through the multilateral convention as opposed to a further bilateral treaty.
The Minister says the primary change in the agreement is the anti-avoidance issues. In particular, the new double taxation agreement includes the principal purpose test under base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, under action 6. He goes on to state that the test ensures that any benefits under the double taxation agreement are denied if the main purpose of the arrangement is the avoidance of tax. Is the Minister happy that the test is present in existing double taxation agreements and particularly with reference to the agreement we have with Luxembourg?
This is a change that has been developed through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, work. I feel this change is needed and will be a big improvement.
It is needed and will be a big improvement in these two taxation agreements, but does it exist in the Luxembourg agreement?
It will come in when ratified through the multilateral convention. It is not there at the moment but will take place through the broad OECD change.
When is that likely to take place?
It will be in effect for us from November.
November of this year?
November of this year.
The general anti-avoidance rule, GAAR, has been on our Statute Book for many years and has been updated in different Finance Acts. It is very clear that where an arrangement's primary or main purpose is avoidance of tax, the benefits will not accrue. Is that correct?
That is correct, but the benefit of the OECD work is that an equivalent of that has to be implemented in any other jurisdiction participating in the work. While we may have strong recognition of this in our existing tax law, the benefit of the OECD approach is that it encourages everybody else to do the same.
If, for example, a business were to change its residency from Ireland to Luxembourg and the main purpose of that was tax avoidance, that would be deemed tax evasion under our existing law and the GAAR because it would be illegal and therefore the benefits would not apply. Would that be correct?
That is the purpose of a change like this, but I know that-----
I am not asking about a change like this. I am asking about our existing law because this does not apply to all other agreements. Under the GAAR if a company were to transfer or change its residency from here to another jurisdiction, for example, Luxembourg, for tax purposes, it would not benefit from-----
This is an especially technical question, so if the Deputy is agreeable, I will ask Mr. O'Dea to answer directly.
Mr. Eamonn O'Dea
The distinction here would be that for the purposes of the treaty, the multilateral convention is necessary to put in the principal purposes test which will then govern the operation of the treaty in determining where a company is deemed to be resident, whether in Ireland or the treaty partner country. As the Deputy correctly points out, however, we also have a general anti-avoidance provision in our domestic legislation and to the extent that there was any effort through artificial arrangements to get a benefit in respect of Irish corporation or income tax by reference to residence provisions of Irish law, that would be governed by our general anti-avoidance provisions as well as the residence provisions in our domestic law. To the extent that the residence is for the purpose of the operation of our domestic law, that will be governed by Irish domestic provisions, including our general anti-avoidance provision. Where it comes to the determination of the residence of a company for the purposes of a bilateral agreement, the governing provisions would be bilateral provisions and the multilateral convention, which Luxembourg and we are ratifying, will provide for a principal purpose test to apply in the application of that treaty. If that treaty were to be used in a way that would wholly and artificially gain the benefits of that treaty for the purposes of reducing tax, it would be possible to limit, prevent and challenge those purposes.
Until that is signed it is our law that would apply and therefore it would not get that benefit. If a company, for example, transferred assets to another jurisdiction and then supplied loans to this country that allowed it to write down its profits but that transfer arrangement was made, without any treaty or bilateral agreement, to reduce its tax liability to zero or next to zero, our law under the general anti-avoidance rule could nullify that.
Mr. Eamonn O'Dea
I would not wish to give the impression that our domestic provisions would not have effect. They would, but if any planning arrangement of the sort the Deputy mentions were relying on protection of the treaty, an anti-avoidance provision would have to be put into the treaty to prevent that. If a taxpayer appeals to the provisions of a treaty, he or she can rely on a bilateral agreement effectively to override domestic law on either side. Across our network of treaties, and in some exceptional instances bilaterally, we are putting in anti-avoidance provisions, the principal purpose test, which prevents the treaty being used simply to gain a tax benefit without any underlying substance. If the arrangement the Deputy refers to were relying on a treaty provision for protection that is being addressed now with the multilateral convention and bilateral negotiations. In many instances such arrangements will not be relying on the treaty and can be attacked using a considerable range of domestic anti-avoidance legislation that has been strengthened over recent years.
We have a half an hour left in this meeting, and we had agreed that we would move to the credit union issue to finish at 3.15 p.m., because the Minister is with us only until then.
I will be very quick on the rest of this. There is a nuance in our existing law. When this agreement is signed and ratified with the Netherlands and Switzerland and with the others, including Luxembourg, later this year, will it then consider the permanent establishment of existing companies or will it just apply to new establishments that are changes in residence applied after that date?
Among the changes we made in the Finance Act 2018, we introduced measures which would tax assets that were transferred from a permanent establishment, PE, to another subsidiary of the company, from the parent company, or one part of it, to the other, if they were moved offshore. Do any of these arrangements impact on that?
I am teasing out some of these issues because of the case that is mentioned in the newspapers. Is there anything in these double taxation agreements that allows or disallows companies to carry on this type of practice where assets are signed over to another country and then loans are sent back to Ireland to build apartment blocks or whatever?
Therefore, these companies in Ireland pay no tax on profits whatever. The Revenue Commissioners are silent on this and there are no questions about measures to combat tax avoidance.
I got a call from a local shopkeeper who employs many people in a certain village. The Revenue Commissioners were down on the shop like a tonne of bricks because it was facilitating the sale of mass cards for the local church. The shop was not benefitting at all but the Revenue Commissioners argued this could have increased throughput into the shop as somebody might come in for a mass card but get a loaf of bread at the same time. The arrangements I am talking about are not about paying €5 to show sympathy and respect for somebody who has passed away but the hundreds of millions of euro in convoluted schemes that allow assets to be transferred offshore, with loans generated on the back of those assets to allow for profits to be completely neutralised in tax terms here. It means some of the largest businesses on this island are not paying their fair share of tax, if they are paying any tax at all. Will those practices still be allowed under this agreement and the agreement to be signed in November this year?
This will apply to existing companies, as opposed to companies due to be set up. The Deputy asked if this has any impact on changes we made in last year's Finance Bill and it does not. The Deputy also asked about a matter covered in a newspaper today. The Deputy has not commented on the individual company and I will not do so either as it would not be appropriate. My experience is that the Revenue Commissioners take people evading their legal tax responsibilities every bit as seriously if the companies in question are large as if they are small. They are exceptionally serious about ensuring that existing law and policy is enforced to deal with that kind of issue.
We have seen in the newspapers today that a company can be established with no employees but which provides loans to a company in Ireland - the location of the parent company - and this facilitates a write-down of tax. It will be deemed as permanently established in another jurisdiction despite the fact it has no operation or employees there. How can a company be run without employees? Those four companies have no employees. This rule means we will turn a blind eye to what was done in the past and it will only apply to companies established in future, no matter how blatant it is that this was for tax purposes in the first place.
The changes will refer to existing companies as opposed to those that are being set up. That is what I aimed to say a few moments ago. The ratification of the OECD changes will make it significantly harder for tax avoidance to happen in the way it has in the past. If I go any further than that, my comments will be associated with the company being discussed today, which would not be appropriate.
The Minister did not answer my question. I asked the Minister about the amount of information that had become available in recent years through a variety of sources indicating there are people in Ireland avoiding paying their fair share of tax either through personal or company structures. There is a very detailed article in today's The Irish Times by Mr. Colm Keena, a very reputable journalist. It indicates there are complex tax arrangements concerning companies and the establishment of what I can only describe as brass plate companies in Luxembourg in particular reflecting on four or five other jurisdictions because these are complex arrangements.
I repeat what I asked the Minister. Is this of concern to him? Currently beef farmers in Ireland are entering a very difficult period.
I have given the Deputy some leeway so she should just put the question please.
We have a very elaborate and complex description in one of our major newspapers today by a very reputable journalist indicating a complex tax arrangement that appears to have resulted in the mitigation of this company's overall tax burden in Ireland to a very high degree. Is the Minister concerned about that? As I said, the beef producers in Ireland are entering a very difficult phase.
We know that. The Deputy should ask her question.
I asked the Minister a second question but he did not reference it. I asked what were the Revenue Commissioners doing about high net worth individuals. I am open to whatever kind of structure they have, whether it is based on income, company structures or trading businesses. The Revenue Commissioners have told us and various other committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts, over the past couple of years that they were targeting approximately 350 so-called high net worth individuals. This is all about properly advancing structures-----
The Deputy has asked her question.
The Minister did not answer so I am just explaining it to a slightly greater extent.
If the Minister can answer that directly, we will conclude the matter and move to the credit union discussion.
The Deputy is referring to a particular company that is covered in a major newspaper today. I can understand entirely why she wants to raise the matter, given some of issues raised by the newspaper today. It is simply not appropriate for me to comment on it. Any comments I make will be interpreted as applying to the affairs of a taxpayer and that is not something I believe is appropriate for me to do as Minister for Finance. Representatives of the Revenue Commissioners have been before this committee on many occasions and they rigorously follow up any issues relating to a breach of tax law. I am not going to make a comment that could be interpreted as applying to any individual or company as it would not be appropriate.
The Deputy asked about the work done by the Revenue Commissioners relating to high net worth individuals and I am happy to supply to the committee a note on recent progress made in this area, particularly across 2019. I thought I answered this when the Deputy raised the matter earlier but I know that some of the issues that have emerged from some of the data coming to the public domain relevant to Ireland have been investigated and followed up by the Revenue Commissioners.