Bertie Ahern and the tax exemption

While Bertie Ahern was fortunate enough to be deemed eligible for the artist’s exemption for his memoirs, others have not fared quite so well.

Figures from the Revenue Commissioners show that seventeen people have been refused the tax break in the past four years.

All of them appear to have taken their cases to the Revenue Appeals Commissioner, where eleven of the cases ended up being overturned.

That leaves six people who have been refused the artist’s exemption since 2006 and if you’re one of those “non-artists” and wish to speak about your experience, get in touch with me on ken.foxe (at)

The figures from the Revenue Commissioners:

Year Number of cases Category Decision
2006 6* 6 in (a) a book or other writing 2 upheld4 overturned

* Note: one of these cases heard at Circuit Court

Year Number of cases Category Decision
2007 4 4 in (a) a book or other writing 1 upheld3 overturned
Year Number of cases Category Decision
2008 5 4 in (a) a book or other writing1 in (d) a painting or other like picture 2 upheld3 overturned

including the case in Cat. (d)


Number of cases Category Decision
2009 2 2 in (a) a book or other writing 1 upheld1 overturned

What is most interesting about this whole affair is that the Revenue Commissioners and their counterparts in the Arts Council appear to have very different ideas about who should and who should not benefit.

The Arts Council are not in a position to comment directly on Bertie Ahern because they were never consulted about it.

However, this lengthy statement, issued to the Sunday Tribune, gives a fair idea of what they might have said had they been asked.

“The Arts Council regards the Artists’ Exemption Scheme as enlightened legislation, unique to Ireland, of which every citizen can be proud. It demonstrates to all that our society still values and nurtures creative artists. It sends a clear signal to the world that this country is a hub of creativity, innovation and fresh thinking, and that is an excellent location for smart-economy investment.

“The Arts Council is asked regularly throughout the year by the Revenue Commissioners for a recommendation on whether or not a particular publication falls within the guidelines of the scheme. In the case of an appeal by an individual against a Revenue Commissioners’ decision, Arts Council officers will offer an opinion and answer questions at the proceedings of Revenue Appeals Commission. We take these duties very seriously, and make an assessment in each case on the basis of the Revenue Commissioners’ published guidelines.

“The guidelines are very clear that biographies and autobiographies do not qualify for the artists’ exemption. The only exception to this is if the book encompasses “…the subjects of fiction writing, drama, music, film, dance, mime or visual arts, and related commentaries by bona fide artists”.

“In recent years the Revenue Appeals Commissioners have made several rulings in favour of plaintiffs, and against the recommendations of the Arts Council.

“We were not asked for a recommendation on any book by Bertie Ahern, nor have we considered it, and therefore have no comment on it.”

Is it not truly bizarre that we have two state agencies with a completely different understanding of the artist’s exemption.

Obviously, the major concern for the Arts Council is that the operation of the scheme has come into disrepute because the public might perceive it as going to undeserving people, like Bertie Ahern.

In that scenario, a new government might find it expedient to abolish the exemption altogether.

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