News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 16th September 2014

OECD proposals target aggressive tax avoidance by Multinational Corporations

Big companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Google have been at the centre of a debate over corporate tax avoidance for a while now


The OECD has announced potentially ground-breaking new proposals to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations such as Amazon and Google.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development unveiled an array of recommendations, including the demand that the world’s major economies impose a new “country-by-country” reporting regime on multinationals in order to increase the transparency of their corporate activities and limit the scope for them to shift profits offshore to avoid tax.

“The country-by-country reporting will provide a clear overview of where profits, sales, employees and assets are located and where taxes are paid and accrued,” it said.

The OECD also said a rule that allows a company to operate a warehouse within a country, without also registering a tax residence, should be reconsidered. This could potentially affect the online retailer Amazon, which reduces its tax bill by selling to the rest of Europe, including Britain, through a subsidiary in Luxembourg.

The suite of proposals, which also includes a curb on businesses artificially channelling profits to tax havens through the abuse of “transfer pricing”, will be presented to G20 finance ministers in Australia later this week and will go before the full leaders’ meeting for approval in November. The new regime is scheduled to be finalised next year, when national governments will be tasked with enacting legislation to bring it into force.

Tuesday’s announcement was given a mixed reception by campaigners and tax experts. Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK described the new reporting proposals as “good news” and added: “No multinational corporation can argue ever again that it does not have this data or that it would be too costly to publish it.”

However, Sol Picciotto, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network, told the New York Times that most of the measures were “just tweaks” and that a wholesale restructuring of the global tax system was still necessary. “They’re trying to repair an old motorcar, but what they need is a new engine” he said.

It also emerged that the UK was among a group of four countries which blocked attempts to make the new regime tougher by clamping down on the poaching of tax revenues that flow from intellectual property (IP) assets. The Coalition has introduced a controversial “patent box” which offers a significant tax break to pharmaceutical companies and other that register their IP in the UK.

University Hospital Galway working to alleviate Emergency Department difficulties


Nursing staff at the Department will hold a protest tomorrow to highlight the pressure caused by shortages

Management at Galway University Hospital say they are working to alleviate difficulties experienced by patients at the Emergency Department.

In a statement tonight, the hospital admitted that some patients were not getting the privacy or dignity that should be afforded to them during treatment.

Nursing staff at the Department will hold a lunchtime protest tomorrow to highlight the pressure caused by staff and bed shortages.

They say the situation is compromising patient care and causing severe stress to nurses.

The hospital says efforts to hire up to 20 new staff are under way.

Management says it hopes to free more acute beds in the coming weeks to ease overcrowding in the Department.

More than 5,500 people die in Ireland from lung disease every year,

New figures show


Statistics were released in a survey yesterday by Ipsos MRBI, ahead of the first National Lung Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday

More than 5,500 people die from lung disease here every year, according to new figures.

Ireland has Europe’s third highest death rate for the killer condition yet more than half of us still can’t recognise the symptoms.

The study also showed 49% of people will be affected by deadly respiratory conditions, either directly or through family members.

The statistics were released in a survey yesterday by Ipsos MRBI, ahead of the first National Lung Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday.

The initiative is the result of 16 charities coming together to form the Irish Lung Health
Alliance, supported by a grant from pharmaceutical giant GSK.

It is part of a worldwide scheme to fight lung disease, co-ordinated by the European Respiratory Society and the European Lung Foundation.

The Alliance wants the Government to establish a National Programme for Healthy Lungs.

It will host roadshows and offer free medical tests in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Portlaoise.

Spokesman Professor Anthony O’Regan said: “The Government’s work in leading the world in tobacco and air quality control legislation is to be commended but there is still substantial work to be done. We need to make much more significant strides in improving disease prevention, early diagnosis and improved access to care.

“The aim of this would be to map out a detailed strategy for improving lung health and the resources required, as well as to identify ambitious but achievable targets in improving this area of health.”

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: “The Alliance is giving useful advice on how to minimise the risk of lung diseases, the importance of early diagnosis and being aware of the symptoms.”

The poll found around 18% of respondents had gone for a lung test in the past five years. It revealed 24% of men were checked, compared to just 13% of women.

Irish households pull back spending last month,

new figures show


Households pulled back spending last month in a move that sent an index that measures consumer confidence down slightly.

It is thought that the reduced spending was due to summer sales ending.

The latest figures from the KBC Bank and the Economic and Social Research Institute show the consumer sentiment index falling to 87.1 in August.

This was down from 89.4 in July, which was a seven-year high.

KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes said the figures suggest that the recovery remains uneven.

He said that trend was for an improving economy, but consumers were unsure how this will impact on their personal financial circumstances.

Mr Hughes said: “For many consumers the recovery they are hearing about is not reflected in their own circumstances at this point in time.”

Archaeologists study a new bog body in Co Meath


A bog body has been found by workers in an area in the Midlands where a similar discovery was made two years ago.

Archaeologists at the National Museum of Ireland revealed the lower leg and foot bones of an adult were dug up in Rossan bog in Meath, close to the border with Westmeath.

It is not known if the remains are from a man or woman.

Bord na Mona workers who made the discovery at the weekend reported the find to experts at the museum.

The exact age of the remains is not known and will be established by radiocarbon dating.

It is the second bog body to be discovered in Rossan bog and was found close to where the remains of a headless adult, dating to 700-400BC in the Bronze Age, were found in 2012.

Studies were carried out on site until yesterday when the remains were removed, and further analysis will take place in the National Museum of Ireland’s conservation laboratory at Collins Barracks, Dublin.

Maeve Sikora of the Irish antiquities division in the museum, who led the fieldwork, praised workers for calling in archaeologists.

“I would like to thank the staff at Bord na Mona for reporting the find so quickly and for their assistance on site,” she said.

Raghnall O Floinn, director of the National Museum of Ireland, added: “Every new find helps to bring us closer to understanding the lives and belief systems of our ancestors.”

Oxygen-free conditions in bogs help to preserve organic material such as human tissue.

Surviving bodies give archaeologists the opportunity for more detailed research into past lives than if only skeletal remains are recovered.

Bog bodies have been found across northern Europe from Ireland to Scandinavia, with many showing evidence of violent death which are believed to have been sacrificial offerings connected to kingship and sovereignty.

The National Museum of Ireland holds one of the finest collection of bog bodies anywhere in the world including discoveries from Oldcroghan, Co Offaly, and Clonycavan, Co Meath.

Rossan is believed to be an ancient territorial boundary.

Spider application launched to help arachnophobes identify the creepy-crawlies they find in homes


The ‘Spider in Da House’ app has been launched as the creatures become more active during the autumn mating season

As spiders pop up indoors and in the garden more frequently over the autumn months, scientists have created an app to help arachnophobes understand the creatures they are so terrified of.

The number of spiders increases in the autumn because males search for a mate, often seeing them venture indoors.

To help people learn more about the 12 most common spiders which become temporary house guests at this time of year, the Spider in Da House app by the Society of Biology features tools including photos and information on the creepy crawlies.

Spiders featured on the app include the rare spitting spider, which usually only dwells in older properties and is rarely active in the daytime. It is named after its method for catching prey – which sees it fire a sticky liquid from its modified poison glands to pin down its dinner.

A more common sight is the jumping spider, often found on the walls of houses and easily recognised by its squared off head and two very large eyes, which give it the best vision of all the spiders.

The most common type of jumping spider is the zebra spider, recognisable by the distinctive black and white strips on its abdomen.

Both species remain in webs in sheds, garages and wood piles until the autumn when the males set out on a search for a mate – which often leads them into houses.

The app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, also helps users to identify whether spiders are male or female – with female spiders often being larger than the males.

Professor Adam Hart, from the University of Gloucestershire, explained that while spiders are feared by many, the creatures are in fact a very helpful pest controllers.

“By eating flies and other insects, spiders are not only providing us with a pest control service, but are important in ecosystems.

“They often feed on the most common species, preventing a few species from becoming dominant. We want to encourage people to respect and learn more about their little house guests.”


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