Everyone has an opinion on U2, whether they’re commenting on the band’s latest album giveaway on iTunes or discussing the latest Bono crusade or musing if the group are still relevant.
Although, one topic remains a very touchy subject for the Irish band and it involves the dreaded word ‘tax’.
Look at any U2 story on the web or YouTube video and you’re bound to see comments referring to the band being tax-avoiding cheats who don’t support their country.
It has always been a lightning rod issue used to chastise the group, especially since the country’s economic nose-dive in 2008.
In 2006, the company that looks after U2’s publishing royalties was uprooted from Ireland to the Netherlands, to reduce the amount the band pays in tax.
In an interview with the Observer, The Edge admits that the decision may not have been ‘totally fair’ and isn’t bitter about the protests that took place at Glastonbury 2011 over the controversial move.
“Was it totally fair? Probably not. The perception is a gross distortion. We do pay a lot of tax. But if I was [the Glastonbury protestors] I probably would have done the same, so it goes with the territory.”
Bono contends there is no mystery to the tax topic, “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.”
“Look, Ireland is not going to back down on this. 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 hemorrhaging of our population all over the world. There are more hospitals and firemen and teachers because of [Ireland’s tax] policy.”
Bono concluded, “As a person who’s spent nearly 30 years fighting to get people out of poverty, it was somewhat humbling to realise that commerce played a bigger job than development,” he said. “I’d say that’s my biggest transformation in 10 years: understanding the power of commerce to make or break lives, and that it cannot be given into as the dominating force in our lives.”
It’s probably not enough to change your mind if you’re on the U2 tax dodgers bandwagon but at least you can’t say they haven’t addressed the issue.