Friday, September 16, 2005

Are GAA players, artists entitled to tax exemption

I was watching an episode of Yes minister the other day. Where the minister wanted to demolish an unsuccessful and unwanted art gallery to finance a loan to rescue the local soccer team. Sir Humphrey thought this was a bad idea as it might set a precedent of closing art galleries to finance sports stadiums and the royal opera house could even lose funding to Wembley. The minister reply was why shouldn’t funds be diverted for the Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera House just plays Mozart Bach Puccini, German Austrian Italian culture not British and nor is it for the people as it is too small to house enough people and it is too difficult for normal people to get tickets. In fact he contending the funding of the arts was merely indulging the middle class (including the civil servants like his adviser who as going to the opera that night) and why shouldn’t they do something (funding the local soccer club) that the majority of people wanted. He also said that the people who go to the Opera House are rich anyway and can afford to pay for it. Now at the end of the show after clearing the tears of laughter from my eyes (I wouldn’t spoil the ending). It got me thinking about this. One of the most controversial policies in Ireland is the tax exemptions for artists. It was introduced in 1969 by Haughey. The basic idea behind this was to help struggling artists keep producing art and not having to give up there work due to financial pressures. This might be a noble aim for a struggling artists but the controversy comes when U2 a band that earns millions each year pays zero direct tax (As Eddie Hobbs would point they would pay a lot of stealth taxes) . Surly this is an abuse of the system. Bono is never going to have to give up rock music due to financial pressures so why should he benefit from this policy. The aim of it is to keep artistry in the public domain and to keep alive an Irish culture of artistry. To make sure the next Yeats Kavanagh, Synge doesn’t stop writing. But think about it what was Yeats Kavanagh and Synges addition to Irish culture. Strictly speaking there greatest works were in English. One could argue that we are an English speaking culture and that is our identity and the source of our economic prosperity and this is true. But is writing in English furthering Irish culture to a greater extent then Sean Ó Halpin captaining Cork to the All-Ireland. Yet they and our current crop of artists get a better deal then Sean Óg Ó Halpin. But the Tax breaks aren’t the only the benefit they get from there art. They can also sell there art and thus benefit from there time financially. The Cork hurlers don’t receive any money from there time. In fact the time and effort they put into there sport impinges on there normal working lives and there is an actual loss in monies due to loss of potential overtime. The loss is probably even greater for players outside the main counties. The likes of Tipperary goalie Brendan Cummins get to appear in advertisements and use there fame won on the pitch to get some enumeration for there lost time. But how about someone who plays hurling for Mayo. Someone who puts in hours of there time for little or no reward. No one knows who they are they are not going to get to advertise Club Energise and no offence to any Mayo readers they are never going to win anything. Or members of the female Gaelic football and Camoige players who often don’t even get the same respect as their male counterparts If we look at Gaelic sports there are places where they are popular and places where it is not. Kilkenny doesn’t field a Gaelic Football team, and many counties don’t support the Hurling teams. In these counties the art of hurling is dieing out. Surely the reason for the special tax status was to stop the demise of some arts and parts of our culture and yet possibly the most uniquely Irish thing after our language, hurling is being aloud to die by the government in certain areas. So what makes Bono and artists who not only works in international mediums but also are commercially successful more in need of special tax status then a struggling Mayo hurler. Does the question come back to the argument made by the minister that the government and civil service who are primarily middle class care more about the “sophisticated” arts such as theatre and music and think they deserve more funding and support then sport. Bertie Ahern’s image is that of a man of the people. He drinks pints of Bass in his local and appears at many matches in Croke Park or Landsdowne Road. Also there is now a minister for sport a position that was created in 1997 but the minister of the arts was established 4 years earlier in 1993. Now however since 2002 The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has been inexistence. Its stated mission is
to contribute to the economic, social and cultural progress of Irish society and the enrichment of its quality of life through promoting sustainable tourism; encouraging excellence in sporting and artistic achievement; facilitating greater access to sport and the arts; and preservation of our cultural inheritance".
isn't Gaelic Games our cultural inheritance. The Abbey theatre is the historic location of Arts in this Country. It was started by W.B Yeats and Lady Geogory back in 1904. It is being moved to a new location on Geogre’s dock at a cost of €170 million euros this figure may or not entirely come from the public coffers but a significant portion will. (As Eddie Hobbs would point out the government record for staying on budget isn't great.)Compare this to the €40 milllion extremely controversial donation to Croke Park. Which has the greatest benefit to the people in Ireland. To someone from Kerry where are they most likely go Croke Park or the Abbey theatre. Invariable a performance in the Abbey Theatre is going to happen during the night. This will require the person to remain over night in Dublin. This alone is an extremely expensive cost. The Abbey is currently in financial trouble and the government is bailing it out. Another organisation in financial is Shamrock Rovers. Shamrock Rovers is one of the historically a major forces in Irish soccer and yet there is no financial support for them. There is the argument that they are a commercial operation and should rise or fall due to market forces. This argument is valid but if this argument is also to be applied to the Abbey shouldn’t they rise and fall by market forces. Also if anyone tries to makes the foreign games argument they would want to prove that Sean O’ Casey’s main work was in English. The arts is a vital part of a countries culture and due to the fact that not a lot of people like visiting an art gallery or the theatre of a Saturday market forces alone are not going to keep places like the Abbey and artists in financial security. Thus we need these people to be given a helping hand from the government. But also un-paid sports players and particularly GAA players give as much commitment to there art for zero government benefit they too deserve tax incentives.We are moving into a more materialistic age in Ireland, pride in the jearsy wouldn't keep the level of participation going much longer. So a financial incentive is need and a professional GAA is not fessible. Imagine of the same tax being paid by accountants as trainee accountants would people be so tolerant of it Now however this is not the case we have millionaires like Bono not paying any income tax and then complaining about the government not spending 0.7 GDP on foreign aid. Its easy for him to say not one cent of it will come from his pay packet.


Michael Larkin said...

You're correct, there is a lot of hypocrisy there. It really makes little sense to arbitrarily some to the conclusion that some people are sufficiently important to acheive tax breaks while others are not. But more tax breaks will just create more hypocrisy, the answer is to eliminate tax breaks for Bono.

As for the struggling new artists, if you think about it, there is no problem. If money is so much a problem for the artist, then people will stop being artists. But then there will be no art, and demand for art will skyrocket, as will the price of it. So new people will become artists since they will be able to support themselves. It's a happy circle of joy.

And if any 'artist' decides to leave the country if they lose their tax breaks, then they can hardly be counted as an artist, the sellouts.

Simon said...

good point if michael o leary can stay and pay his 14 million tax bill due to the joys of westmeath then bono can pay his tax for dalkey