In the midst of rock writer Dorian Lynskey's mostly-wet-kiss profile of U2 and SONGS OF INNOCENCE, there's this passage of Bono the Plutocrat formerly known as Paul Hewson waxing eloquent:
Of course, the biggest blow to Bono’s activist reputation has been U2’s collective decision in 2006 to transfer U2 Ltd, which handles their publishing royalties (not the bulk of their income but a significant chunk), from Ireland to the Netherlands to reduce their tax bill. Their Glastonbury set attracted a small lobby of banner-waving protesters. Edge is painstakingly even-handed about it. “Was it totally fair? Probably not. The perception is a gross distortion. We do pay a lot of tax. But if I was them I probably would have done the same, so it goes with the territory.”
Like the protesters, I think the arrangement sits badly with Bono’s development [charitable] work and we go back and forth for a while. It isn’t a clandestine offshore tax haven, Bono insists. “All of our stuff is out in the open. How did people find out about it? Because it’s published. The sneakiness is when you don’t even know what’s going on.” Eventually, we agree to disagree, and the conversation moves on to Ireland’s corporation-friendly tax laws, currently the subject of an EU investigation.
“Look, Ireland is not going to back down on this,” he says. “We are a tiny little country, we don’t have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known. That’s how we got these [tech] companies here. Little countries, we don’t have natural resources, we have to be able to attract people. We’ve been through the 50s and the 60s, and mass haemorrhaging of our population all over the world. There are more hospitals and firemen and teachers because of [Ireland’s tax] policy.”
The complete Lynskey profile of U2 can be found here: