High-net-worth individuals will still be able to avoid income levies introduced in the budget despite the government's decision to back-date levies to the start of the year to combat tax avoidance.
Accountants advising the affluent have described the levies as "draconian" and told their clients the key to avoiding them is to ensure that returns from their businesses are not categorised as "reckonable income". Trusts could be used to achieve this because the 20% standard rate of tax applies to income of certain trustees.
Service companies can also be used to avoid tax. "If entrepreneurs provide services through personal-service companies, levies are not in point unless the service company pays a dividend or salary," one leading accountancy firm told clients.
Another option would be to create capital gains, rather than income, where a company has dividends that will be paid to investors.
In addition, foreign entrepreneurs living here will only be liable to income tax and levies on income earned here and foreign income remitted to this country.
This year's supplementary budget doubled the income levy to a maximum rate of 6% and the health levy to a maximum rate of 5%. The government backdated them to the start of the year to stop high-net-worth individuals frontloading their salaries to the first four months of the year, thereby avoiding the increases.
The Department of Finance is backdating the levies despite earlier indications the rates would start from 1 May.
The minister for finance Brian Lenihan on budget day gave no indication the income levies would be backdated. The Finance Bill is due to be published next week giving effect to all the recent changes.
Recently the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI) voiced opposition to the backdating of the income levies. "For many employees in our declining economy, income for 2009 will be higher in the first four months of the year than in the last eight. There's neither acceleration nor avoidance involved, just the harsh economic reality," ICAI director of taxation Brian Keegan said.