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IDA chief Michael Lohan says state must compete on personal tax and convince ‘decision makers’ and ‘high net worth individuals’

IDA chief Michael Lohan says state must compete on personal tax and convince 'decision makers' and 'high net worth individuals'

To attract more investment to Ireland, better personal tax breaks, more housing for foreign workers and some green and tech subsidies are needed, says the new chief of IDA Ireland.

Ichael Lohan, who took the top job at the state’s main foreign direct investment agency, said investors are not shying away from coming to Ireland but are “aware” of the housing shortage here.

“People are aware, and it comes up in conversations, but no one has said to me, ‘We’re not coming to Ireland because of your housing crisis.'”

He said it is up to the government to decide how the projected €10bn surplus will be used this year, but it was “clear where the capacity constraints are in Ireland”.

Solving the housing crisis must go beyond subsidizing developers of low-rent housing, Lohan said, citing an idea the government is considering, according to a report in Thursday’s Irish Independent.

“It has to be versatile. The response is not just one element. If we want to bring talent to Ireland, which we need to do, and people to Ireland, we need to be able to provide them with a home to live in, raise their families and develop their careers here. So we need to talk about the whole spectrum of housing.

Born in Leitrim, Mr. Lohan is an engineer by training and was the IDA’s global head of life sciences and talent transformation and innovation before taking on the role of CEO this week.

He spoke to the Irish Independent on Thursday on the sidelines of the Bloomberg New Economy Gateway event in Wicklow, where he had successive meetings with Irish and foreign delegates.

Ireland has to compete with other countries for personal tax breaks and subsidies, he said.

“I think we need to make sure we are competitive in every aspect of our offering to innovative companies,” he said.

“We need those decision makers here. We need to look at a progressive system that also rewards highly innovative high net worth individuals.

“I think our system is just too narrow at the moment, and we need to broaden that, and it’s not about fundamentally resetting it. I think it’s just tweaking it to make it appealing.

“It’s not all driven by personal strain, but it also plays a role in individuals’ decisions.”

The government has a partial tax exemption for foreign workers posted to Ireland called The Special Assignee Relief Program but it was only used by 1,500 people in 2018.

While agreeing with the Taoiseach’s plan to invest some of the corporate tax windfall into an “anti-austerity fund”, he said some money should also go towards attracting renewable energy investors and digital infrastructure.

“We have to be careful with that. We have to decide what to keep for the future. And then we have to say, OK, what elements of that can we use today.

“The dual transition of digital and green: we really need to look at how we can drive that and make sure we push ourselves forward.”

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