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Irish report
by Euro Reporter
2014-10-24 09:32:59
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Kennedy Wilson Europe’s focus remains on Ireland and the UK

Real estate investment firm Kennedy Wilson Europe’s focus remains on the UK and Ireland, managing director Peter Collins said, in contrast to previous suggestions that its focus had switched to the continent. Mr Collins said the firm is “actively looking to add more stock to our existing portfolio here in Ireland at the moment. We’re people who want to own and manage buildings over the long term,” he said.

In June, Kennedy Wilson’s Fiona D’Silva told a conference that the firm was “looking more at opportunities outside Ireland and the UK to Italy and Spain. We think it has been great in Ireland and see things still coming off banks’ [balance sheets] but pricing is moving ahead of itself a little bit so we are a little bit more cautious,” she said. This evening, Mr Collins said that in total, Kennedy Wilson hopes to have 350 or 360 new rental residential units under construction here next year. “They will probably hit the market or deliver into the market towards the end of the following year,” he told delegates at the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) annual conference.

Mr Collins said a strong rental market will support a more balanced residential market but that there needed to be a step change in the quality of the rental offering. Separately, a report prepared for the Housing Agency on the rental sector found that rents are rising by 9pc a year. Too many landlords are non-professionals, and the sector was suffering from a lack of supply, it found. SCSI president Pauline Daly said there was a need to ensure pension funds can invest in the buy-to-let sector. This could be done by extending the 12.5pc corporate tax rate for multi-unit rental companies, she said.


Tax relief for foreign workers in Ireland extended

A TAX break designed to help companies attract top talent to work in Ireland is being extended. The Special Assignee Relief Programme (Sarp) was introduced two years ago to help multinationals and home-grown companies persuade workers to relocate to Ireland by reducing their level of taxable income here by up to 30pc. To be eligible for it, employees had to earn a minimum salary of €75,000, and 30pc of their wages up to a maximum of €500,000 would be excluded from Irish tax. Finance Minister Michael Noonan has extended the relief for another three years until the end of 2017 in the Finance Bill, which was published yesterday.

And the upper salary ceiling, of half a million euro, has been scrapped. In addition, the period of time that staff members have to be employed by the relevant company prior to coming here has been reduced to six months from 12 months. The requirement to be tax resident in Ireland and not resident elsewhere is being changed so that the only requirement is to be tax resident here. The Finance Bill contains previously unannounced measures, as well as those outlined in the Budget. In the Budget, Mr Noonan said tax relief of 20pc for water charges would be introduced on charges paid up to a maximum of €500 per year. The Government said this may result in tax relief up to €100 per household per year. The minister said yesterday that his officials were working with those in other departments and agencies on how to deliver the relief. He said any legislation required would be brought forward as an amendment to the Bill when it reaches Committee stage.

Budget measures also include reducing the top rate of income tax from 41pc to 40pc, while changes are also being made to the Universal Social Charge bands. The Finance Bill also gives effect to the scrapping of the notorious Double Irish tax loophole. Other measures in the Bill include provisions which would treat "returns of value" payments of €1,000 or less made by Vodafone to its Irish shareholders as capital receipts for tax purposes, unless shareholders opt to have the returns treated as income. The Bill also includes amendments to close off a number of tax avoidance schemes which are linked to the use of approved retirement funds and "vested" personal retirement savings accounts.


Ireland failing to tackle corruption in export countries

Ireland is among a number of exporter countries accused of doing little or nothing to stamp out corruption in the business world. A report issued by Transparency International on Thursday reveals that just four out of 41 countries who signed up to the OECD anti-bribery convention 15 years ago are actively investigating and prosecuting companies that cheat taxpayers when they bribe foreign officials to win contracts or to obtain licences and concessions. Ireland, which accounts for approximately 1.1 per cent of global trade, is included in a list alongside 21 other countries accused of having little or no enforcement. The 22 countries collectively represent 27 per cent of world exports. Transparency International’s report reveals that no cases or investigations commenced in Ireland between 2010 and 2013. Moreover, just one case, which commenced in 2007, is currently being investigated. A further three possible cases are being assessed.

The OECD Convention, which established legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions, was adopted in 1997 and entered into force on 15 February 1999. Ireland was criticised by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in a report last year for not having prosecuted a foreign bribery case since the offence came into being. According to Transparency International, the four leading enforcers (Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the US) completed 225 cases and started 57 new cases from 2010-2013. The other 35 countries who have signed up to the OECD convention completed 20 and started 53. The study shows that 20 countries have not brought any criminal charges for major cross-border corruption by companies in the last four years.

Canada is the only country to show significant improvement since last year’s report, having beefed up its foreign bribery law and started several investigations. “For the anti-bribery convention to achieve a fundamental change in the way companies operate, we need a majority of leading exporters to be actively enforcing it, so that the other countries will be pressured to follow suit,” said Transparency International chairman José Ugaz. “Unfortunately, we are a long way from that tipping point, and that means the vision of corruption-free global trade remains far away.” Transparency International said enforcement is low because investigators lack political backing to go after big companies, especially where the considerations of national economic interest trump anti-corruption commitments. Investigators also often lack the resources to investigate complex white-collar crime, it said.

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