How not to Design a Tax Conference
13 January, 2017
So you’re a Chief Financial Officer or a tax advisor and you see That The Irish Times is trying to sell you tickets to a conference entitled “Corporate Tax. Are we Predator or Prey?”. I reckon that two things will put you off right from the start.
Firstly, the conference title is provocative, and is very much in line with The Irish Times’ house view (which mirrors ICTU’s view) that a business-oriented low-tax system is in itself suspect. So if you make your living by advising companies on how to reduce their tax bills, you would have to be prepared, while attending this conference, to be treated as if you were a smear of dog poo on somebody’s shoe.
Secondly, somebody with a sense of humour has lined up Fintan O’Toole as a speaker. This strikes me as akin to having Donald Trump speak at a feminist conference, or The Iona Institute inviting Richard Dawkins to address their annual conference. For O’Toole is your typical left-wing bubble-dwelling artsy social warrior, who regards all profit as either undistributed wages or a mortal sin. That doesn’t prevent him being an excellent writer, by the way; it just means that when he writes about business or economics or taxation, he is completely out of his depth and the result is risible.
This is hardly surprising, as FO’T is literary editor of The Irish Times. Not the business editor, not the economics editor, not a taxation specialist, in fact not anybody with any expertise on these important subjects. I can think of dozens of left-wingers who know more about economics and taxation that Fintan, any of whom would be capable of offering a useful contribution to this Corporate Tax Summit. But The Irish Times insider gets the gig.
As I have said previously, The Irish Times wouldn’t habitually commission an economist or an accountant to write controversial articles on, say, literary novels or the theatre, where these are outside their sphere of competence. So why does it regularly publish economically illiterate articles on finance, economics and taxation matters, written by a social and arts commentator?