Can artists live in Ireland tax-free?

Dear Cecil:

Someone told me Ireland allows artists to live tax-free. Now suppose my dream comes true and I'm the next DeNiro, Winkler, Redford, or whoever and I make a zillion dollars and buy a little mansion in Ireland (southern Ireland, of course) and even go so far as to give up U.S. citizenship. Can I escape taxation, or is it all just a dream (the Ireland tax part, I mean)?

Cecil replies:

The provision of the Irish income tax laws you refer to is intended for the relief of artists, you cretin, not no-talent freeloaders from Los Angeles. By artists we mean writers, sculptors, painters, musicians, and other persons of delicate creative sensibilities, such as myself. By musicians, I should further clarify, we mean–how shall I put this–makers of music, as opposed to random sonic vibration. The post-1976 work of Steve Miller, for instance, is specifically exempted. Furthermore, the Irish authorities have wisely adjudged that the movies are, ipso facto, not art. Nor, for that matter, is most of what we might laughingly refer to as “popular culture.” Indeed, there is some sentiment in Ireland that so-called entertainers deemed to have significantly retarded the advance of civilization–the classic example in my mind remains the Bee Gees–should be taxed at confiscatory rates, and, in persistent cases, shot down like dogs. Ireland in some ways is so progressive.

I should point out that even if you are a bona fide artist living in Ireland–the Arts Council of Ireland makes the decisions on these things–you still have to pay taxes (usually) on income earned in the United States. The friendly folks from the Internal Revenue Service and I have been poring over the statutes for the last hour or so, and as near as we can make out–I emphasize the tentativeness of the following judgment–you have to pay a flat 30 percent tax on royalties on books and whatnot sold in the U.S. That’s if you’re an Irish citizen residing in Ireland, you understand. American writers living in Ireland pay ordinary U.S. income taxes, as a rule, although they needn’t pay any Irish income taxes. I omit certain complications here, but you get the idea. For more info on the preceding, call the nearest Irish consulate and ask for the handout entitled “Tax Relief for Writers and Artists.”

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