Ireland

Introduction

 

About Ireland

Ireland's economy is driven by high-tech sectors and services, while being dependent on trade and investment for its success. The 2018 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Ireland sixth in the world and second in the European Union, while it was ranked eighth in the Forbes 2018 Best Countries for Business List. Ireland also has the youngest population amongst all the EU countries with one-third of its population under 25 years old, therefore providing Ireland with a significant labour force compared to other EU countries.

Ireland features pro-business policies including a stable tax regime and tax treaties with more than 70 countries and territories. Ireland is ranked first in the EU and fourth in the world for the ease with which a business can pay its taxes. Other benefits include no exchange controls, capital grants and interest subsidies. Ireland has also established technology parks in several major cities to host advanced manufacturing projects and boost innovation.

On the back of Ireland's proactive stance towards fostering innovation, a wide range of world-leading Chinese companies have set up operations in the country. China is also Ireland's second largest agri-food export destination.

 

Ireland Market Profile Infographic_Small
 

What solutions are available in Ireland?

Solution Description
Treasury Centres A centralised treasury is one way to reduce the tax burden, centralise risk management, improve liquidity and enhance yield on cash.
Interest Optimisation Maximise your interest yield from for your balances held with the bank.
Notional Pooling Cash balances in different accounts are notionally offset to derive the net balance, which is then used to calculate interest.
Sweeping/ Zero Balance Account (ZBA) ZBA are checking accounts with zero balances where funds are physically swept to eliminate excess balances and maintain greater control over disbursements.
In-house Banks (IHB) In-house banks provide corporate treasurers with another method of centralising and consolidating their business.
Intercompany loans Similar to bank loans, intercompany loans refer to lending between entities within the same group.

Corporate Treasury in Ireland

Ireland is one of the founding members of the European Union. Its economy is focused on high-technology industries and the services sector. Here, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management in Ireland.

 

Financial Market Development

  • The World Economic Forum ranks Ireland 69th in the world for financial market development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.
  • It ranks Ireland 109th in the world for the soundness of its banks, with access to financing highlighted as the main challenge of doing business in the country.
  • Ireland has good business infrastructure, a highly educated English-speaking workforce and a sound legal environment.
  • There are no foreign-exchange controls in Ireland.

 

Sophistication of Banking Systems

  • There are 24 domestic banks in Ireland and 34 branches of foreign banks, with the sector dominated by four large banks. Three of the country's banks required government assistance during the global financial crisis of 2008.
  • Ireland's foreign exchange market has an average daily turnover of USD2 billion (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2016).
  • Ireland has a well-developed debt market with a wide-range of both government and corporate bonds available. Outstanding debt securities were valued at USD863 billion at the end of 2017.

 

Regulatory Bodies

  • The banking industry is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. As a eurozone country it is also covered by the Single Supervisory Mechanism Regulation and European Central Bank.

 

Tax

  • The corporate income tax (CIT) rate is 12.5%. A higher rate of 25% is charged on income from business conducted wholly outside of Ireland, and on income from land dealing, mining and petroleum extraction. An additional profit resource rent tax of 25% to 40% applies to certain petroleum activities.
  • Resident companies are subject to tax on their worldwide income. Non-resident companies are taxed on trading profits of an Irish branch or agency and certain Irish-sourced income. There is no branch profits remittance tax on the repatriation of profits to the head office by the branch of a foreign company.
  • The standard rate for Value Added Tax (VAT) is 23% with certain goods and services qualifying for a reduced rate of 0%, 4.8%, 9% or 13.5%.
  • Capital gains is taxed at 33%, with rates of 25% or 40% charged in certain circumstances. Some exemptions are available.
  • Interest income is taxable at 25%. Interest expenses can be deducted if the borrowing is used for trade or certain non-trading assets.
  • Stamp duty is charged at 6% on the transfer of non-residential property, including commercial/industrial land or buildings, as well as on business assets such as goodwill, debtors and contracts. A rate of 1% applies for the transfer of shares.
  • Ireland offers favourable tax treatment for cash-pooling activities. Under a typical cash-pooling arrangement, interest payments by the Irish cash-pool leader typically constitute ‘short’ interest for tax purposes. Tax deductions for interest payable to a group company resident outside of Ireland are available.
  • For entities known as 'Section 110' companies, namely Irish-resident special-purpose companies that hold and/or manage qualifying assets and meet a number of conditions, a corporation tax rate close to zero is available.
  • For resident companies, there is no withholding tax (WHT) on dividends whilst WHT of 20% is charged on interest. Non-resident companies where there are no tax treaties in place, are charged WHT of 20% on both interest and dividends. Where a tax treaty is in place and the non-resident can provide the Certificate of Residence, rates range from 0% to 15% on both dividends and interest. WHT exemptions are available.
  • Ireland has tax treaties with more than 70 countries and territories.
  • Ireland is a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, through which information is exchanged between tax administrations, to provide a single, global picture on some key indicators of economic activity within multinational enterprises.

 

Benefits for Regional Treasury Centres

  • Ireland is a popular location for cash pooling and treasury activities due to its low corporate tax rate.
  • It offers favourable tax treatment for cash-pooling activities.
  • Corporate treasury activities may be structured as stand-alone or agency operations.
  • Ireland is a popular location for shared-service centres due to its highly skilled workforce and strong government support.
  • Ireland is positioning itself as an alternative European financial centre for when the UK leaves the European Union.
  • Most forms of cash concentration and notional pooling are available in Ireland on a domestic and cross-border basis.
  • Ireland is a member of the pan-European TARGET2 real-time gross settlement system.
  • Ireland has an extensive tax treaty network and offers foreign tax credit relief on foreign income not covered by this network.
  • Ireland is a eurozone country with trading hours that overlap with Asia, Europe and North America.

 

Banking

 

Banking System

  • There are 24 domestic and 34 branches of foreign banks operating in Ireland, with the sector dominated by five main banks. After a wave of consolidations, the number of credit unions in the country fell from 292 to 269.
  • Ireland was one of the hardest-hit European countries in the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. Three of the country's banks required government assistance, and the government now has majority-stakes in two of the country’s main banking groups: Allied Irish Bank (AIB) at 71% and permanent tsb at 74.9%. They also hold a minority stake of 13.95% in one of Ireland’s largest banks, Bank of Ireland.
  • Ulster Bank Ireland, which operates as part of Royal Bank of Scotland due to various bank acquisitions, and KBC Bank Ireland round out the banking sector’s top five.
  • There is speculation that some major international banks are considering relocating part of their operations to Ireland after the UK has left the European Union.

 

Bank Accounts

  • Residents may hold foreign- and domestic-currency accounts both domestically and overseas. Domestic-currency accounts are fully convertible into foreign currency.
  • Non-residents may hold foreign- and domestic-currency accounts both domestically and overseas. Domestic-currency accounts are fully convertible into foreign currency.
  • Interest is not available on all current accounts.

 

Legal and Regulatory

  • The Central Bank of Ireland (central bank) is an autonomous institution and a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) supervises banks within the eurozone that are regarded as 'significant' through the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), while other 'less significant' eurozone banks are supervised by the respective national central bank, such as The Central Bank of Ireland.
  • A company is resident if it is incorporated in Ireland or is effectively managed or controlled in Ireland.
  • Ireland has anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing legislation in place, and follows EU anti-money laundering directives.
  • There are no foreign-exchange controls in place.
  • Ireland has set up a financial intelligence unit, An Garda Siochana/Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI), which is a member of the Egmont Group.

 

Payment

On 13 January 2018, the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) was scheduled to become law across all EU Member States. A revision of the initial PSD adopted in 2007, PSD2 updates and enhances the legal framework for payment systems across the European Economic Area (EEA) single market, to be supervised by the European Banking Authority. Supplemental regulatory technical standards are also being rolled out, from March 2018 to September 2019, to address issues of authentication, monitoring and API standardisation.

The main objective of PSD2 is to provide enhanced consumer security within the developing financial technology (fintech) environment for electronic payments such as mobile payments, credit transfers, online payments and direct debits. 

Measures include:

  • Prohibition of surcharges on credit/debit card payments.
  • Imposition of strict security requirements including the protection of financial data.
  • Increased competition between European payment service providers.
  • Greater consumer rights such as ‘no questions asked’ refunds on direct debits in euros.

 

Payment Systems

TARGET2

(Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer system)

Pan-European  Real-time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system

  • Owned and operated by the Eurosystem.
  • Three Eurosystem central banks – Banca d’Italia, Banque de France and Deutsche Bundesbank – provide the Single Shared Platform (SSP) of TARGET2.
  • Processes high value and urgent EUR-denominated domestic and cross-border credit transfers.
  • Activates final settlement of participants’ net balances from STEP2 (pan-European Automated Clearing House).
  • Settles transactions in real time and with immediate finality.
  • Transactions are processed electronically using SWIFT.
  • Final settlement is done across participant banks’ correspondent accounts held at the SSP.
  • Ireland has 14 direct and eight indirect participants.
STEP1 Pan-European net settlement system
  • Operated by EBA (Euro Banking Association) Clearing.
  • Processes low-value (no minimum value threshold) and non-urgent euro-denominated commercial payments.
  • STEP1 is open to all banks in the EU and has access to EURO1 platform.
  • Operates SWIFT messaging.

STEP2

Pan-european Automated Clearing House (PE-ACH)

  • Operated by EBA Clearing.
  • Processes low-value, non-urgent and bulk euro-denominated retail payments.
  • Provides straight-through processing for interbank transactions.
  • Settlement done same or next day, depending on time of submission.
  • A pan-European real-time infrastructure for EUR-denominated transactions is under development by EBA Clearing and Italy's SIA Group (one of the operators of STEP2).
  • Cross-border transactions can be processed through SWIFT and overseas correspondent banks.
  • Ireland has four direct participants: AIB Group, Bank of Ireland, Elavon Financial Services and BNP Paribas (Dublin branch).

IPCC

(Irish Paper Clearing Company Ltd)

Paper-based and cheque-clearing system

  • Operated by the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland and supervised by the Central Bank.
  • EUR-denominated cross-border payments are done through the EBA's EURO1 (Ireland has two participant banks), STEP1 or STEP2 payments systems.
  • A pan-European real-time infrastructure for EUR-denominated transactions is under development by EBA Clearing (which operates EURO1, STEP1 and STEP2) and Italy's SIA Group (which is an operator for STEP2).
  • Cross-border transactions can be processed through SWIFT and overseas correspondent banks.
  • Clears paper-based and cheque payments through daily bilateral exchange between participant banks.
  • Final settlement done through TARGET2-IE.
  • Seven direct participants (BNP Paribas, Dublin branch, is the clearing agent for the participant banks).
  • Settlement done within three days, whereby beneficiary bank receives funds on day two and debited bank has funds withdrawn on day three.
  • Same-day value cheques are available for significantly high values through 'special presentation'. Only key banks' branches in Dublin have this service available.

SEPA

(Single Euro Payments Area)

Pan-European payment system 

  • Initiated by the EPC (European Payments Council).
  • Operates a common set of payment instruments, infrastructures, procedures and standards for euro transactions within Europe. 
  • Electronic retail payments within SEPA are regarded as domestic payments.
  • SEPA is not applicable to urgent, high-priority payments or cheques.
  • SEPA countries include 28 European Union (EU) member states and four European Free Trade Association member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
  • A Europe-wide legal framework for payments, PSD2, was launched in 2016, which essentially provides security for electronic payments inside and outside of the EEA.
  • There are two SEPA payment instruments: SCT Inst and SDD (see below).

SCT Inst

(SEPA Instant Credit Transfers)
Pan-European instant payments system
  • Operated by the EPC.
  • 585 participants
  • Launched in November 2017, this scheme provides EUR-denominated credit transfers up to a maximum of EUR 15,000 within 10 seconds. Available 24/7, year round.
  • Currently there are eight participating countries: Austria, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain. The network will progressively cover all 34 European countries with access to SEPA.
  • Corresponding national systems were phased out in 2016.

SDD

(SEPA Direct Debits)
Pan-European direct debit system
  • Operated by the EPC.
  • 585 participants
  • There are two types of SDD: SDD Core for consumers and SDD B2B for businesses.
  • Operates whereby the payer has to give approval via a mandate provided by the biller electronically or on paper. Otherwise known as creditor-driven mandate flow.
  • Corresponding national systems were phased out in 2016.
RT1 Pan-European real-time EUR credit transfer system
  • Operated by EBA Clearing, which also operates EURO1, STEP1, STEP2 and Italy's SIA Group (one of the STEP2 operators).
  • Launched in 2017.
  • 28 participants
  • A pan-European real-time infrastructure for EUR-denominated SEPA transactions.
  • Supports transactions compliant with SCT Inst scheme.
  • Messaging is in line with ISO 20022 or SWIFT FIN standard.
EURO1 Pan-European RTGS-equivalent net settlement system
  • Operated by EBA Clearing.
  • Processes high-value (no maximum value threshold) and urgent euro-denominated domestic and cross-border payments.
  • Payments processed with immediate finality and are irrevocable.
  • Operates SWIFT messaging.

 

 

Payment Instruments

 

Credit Transfers

  • Can be automated or paper-based, although the large majority of credit transfers are automated. Credit transfers are used increasingly as paper-based payments are in decline.
  • High-value and urgent transfers are settled through TARGET2 in real time.
  • Low-value and non-urgent SEPA transfers are settled same day through STEP2.
  • The SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT) scheme is used for retail transactions and is available for urgent and high-priority payments (no maximum threshold) within the SEPA.
  • The SEPA Inst scheme is used for urgent transactions up to a maximum of EUR 15,000 and is available to consumers, businesses and corporations within the SEPA and SEPA-participating countries.

 

Direct Debits (auto debits)

  • Used for low-value, regular transactions such as utility bills.
  • The SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) scheme is used for urgent and high-priority retail payments (no maximum threshold) within the SEPA. It is mandatory for all banks in the eurozone to offer SDD facilities, and banks outside of the eurozone are required to accept SDD transactions.
  • SEPA SDD transactions cleared same day through STEP2.

 

Card Payments

  • Payment card usage continues to grow, especially with debit cards. Their popularity is largely driven by an increase in contactless payment facilities.
  • The main payment card brands are Visa and MasterCard, with American Express and Diners Club credit cards also in circulation. All payment cards are SEPA- and Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV)-compliant.
  • Clearing and settlement is handled by individual banks which operate their own arrangements.
  • Credit card transactions are subject to stamp duty for Ireland residents and there is a government fee imposed on ATM withdrawals. Both charges are collected annually by the card owner’s bank on behalf of the government.

 

Online Payments

  • The government launched the International Financial Services 2020 (IFS2020) Action Plan 2018, outlining initiatives to support and promote financial technology (fintech) companies. Included is the Fintech Census 2018, which sets out to provide a database for domestic and international fintech companies looking to invest in Ireland’s fintech sector.
  • Dublin has been named one of Europe’s financial technology (fintech) hubs (Deloitte’s Global Fintech Hub Report 2017), with a high concentration of fintech companies based there and a conducive framework in which to set up and operate.
  • The Central Bank of Ireland regulates the financial sector, including the fintech industry. There is no specific fintech regulatory framework.
  • The EU launched an ‘action plan on Fintech’ in 2018 that broadly sets out its approach, to be rolled out gradually. The areas of focus are: to encourage innovative business models; to support technological development in blockchain, artificial intelligence and cloud services; and to increase cybersecurity and protect the integrity of the financial system.
  • Digital payments are increasing in popularity, with online and mobile transactions growing by 27% year on year and contactless payments using debit cards and mobile phones growing by 138% in terms of volume of transactions in 2017 (Banking and Payments Federation Ireland - BPFI). The most popular digital wallets are Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and PayPal.
  • According to Visa Digital Payments Survey 2017, 78% of Irish consumers use mobile banking and about 79% have used a digital wallet such as PayPal, a card-on-file service (linked to a consumer’s online store payment details) or a mobile payment service such as Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay.
  • Reloadable prepaid payment cards are available such as Skrill, 3Money, Swirl and Payzone.
  • PostFX MasterCard® Currency Card is offered by Ireland's main postal service provider, An Post. The currency card can be used at ATMs and retail outlets globally where MasterCard payment cards are accepted.
  • Wearable devices offer contactless payment options through Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay.

 

Digital Currencies

  • Cryptocurrency has had growing interest in Ireland and is a popular investment option. There is even an Irish cryptocurrency, Irishcoin, aimed at tourists and used for low value transactions.
  • There is no regulation in place for cryptocurrency, and the EU does not recognise cryptocurrencies as legal tender. The EU’s overall view of bitcoin is that “no member state can introduce its own currency”. Cryptocurrency exchanges are legal, depending on the country, and should be under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, according to the European Commission.
  • The Central Bank of Ireland has declared that in cases of ICOs, the question of whether tokens are “transferable securities” will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Capital gains tax law does apply to transactions involving cryptocurrencies in the event an individual earns a profit from buying or selling.

 

Cash, Cheques and Money Orders

  • Cash remains the main form of payment for low-value transactions although the volume of ATM cash withdrawals continues to fall.
  • Cheques are a common form of cashless payment, almost double the average usage in the EU. However, cheque usage is being fast-outpaced by electronic transactions.
  • Cheques are used for high-value, one-off and supplier retail and commercial payments.
  • The government, state and local authorities have not accepted cheques since 2013, in an effort to phase out cheque usage. However, the continued common use of cheques by businesses and the older population has slowed the phasing out process.
  • Cheques are cleared through IPCC and final settlement is done through TARGET2. There is a stamp duty of EUR0.50 levied on all cheque transactions.
  • Remittances can be arranged at An Post offices via Postal Money Orders and Western Union for domestic transfers, and Western Union, Eurogiro and Sterling Draft for international transfers.

 

Demographics

Ireland Market Profile Infographic

1 (Main) reduced and zero-rated VAT for certain goods and services

2 (Progressive) max rate but varies according to marital status and household income

 

Recent developments

 

Increase in Contactless Payments

Consumers are increasingly shunning cash in favour of debit cards and contactless payments, according to the Central Bank of Ireland. The bank said the increase may be due to a rise in the availability of contactless payment options and terminals. In 2017, contactless transactions accounted for more than 80% of the increase in transaction volume, but the value of the average contactless payment remains low at EUR12.24.

Read more about this development here

 

Millennials Drive Shift to Cashless Payments

Between 60% to 70% of all transactions in Ireland are set to be cashless within five years as millennials drive the shift to alternative payment methods. The Future Laboratory said younger generations were already high adopters of so-called cloud cash, such as mobile payment apps like Google Pay and Apple Pay, with up to 60% of young people using them, compared with just 20% of some older generations. It predicts payments made in cash will be a minority within half a decade.

Read more about this development here

 

EUR5 Million Fintech Project Launched

The government has launched a EUR5 million fintech research and development project. The Fintech Fusion, which will run for five years, will focus on regulatory technology, blockchain and online payments, as well as other innovative technology in the financial sector. It will be managed by the ADAPT Centre, which focuses on next generation digital technology, and is part of the government’s push to help Ireland become one of Europe’s biggest fintech hubs.

Read more about this development here

 

 

This Market Profile is brought to you by DBS. Get in touch with us for further insights on doing treasury in Ireland and take advantage of our innovative solutions to empower your business. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Sources: Eurostat, IMF, World Economic Forum, PwC, Central Bank of Ireland, Bank for International Settlements, European Central Bank, OECD.

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Last updated on 10 Dec 2018