Feargal O'Rourke

Feargal “Sake” O'Rourke (born 3 August 1964) is an Irish accountant and corporate tax expert,[1] who is the managing partner of PwC in Ireland.[2] He is considered the architect of the Double Irish tax scheme used by U.S. firms such as Apple, Google and Facebook in Ireland, and a leader in the development of corporate tax planning tools,[a] and tax legislation, for U.S. multinationals in Ireland.[3][4]

Feargal O'Rourke
Enda Kenny Feargal O'Rourke Taken at IBEC 2014 Conference Flickr.jpg
Former Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and O'Rourke in 2014
Born (1964-08-03) 3 August 1964 (age 58)
EducationMarist College, Athlone
Alma materUniversity College Dublin
OccupationChartered accountant
Tax advisor
Known forDouble Irish tax scheme
TitleManaging partner, Ireland
(July 2015)
SpouseMaeve O'Rourke
Parent(s)Mary O'Rourke
Enda O'Rourke
(m. 1962; d. 2001)


O'Rourke comes from an established Fianna Fáil political dynasty. He is the son of former Irish Minister Mary O'Rourke, nephew of former Irish Tánaiste Brian Lenihan Snr, and cousin of former Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan Jnr, and former Irish Minister of State Conor Lenihan.[5]

He chaired the college branch of Fianna Fáil at UCD and joined the national executive on graduation.[5]

Double IrishEdit

O'Rourke was once labeled the "great architect"[3][4] of the Double Irish base erosion and profit shifting ("BEPS") tool,[5] as used by U.S. multinationals in Ireland such as Google,[6] a known client of O'Rourke's,[4][7] Facebook,[8] and Apple.[9][10] O'Rourke's work on Google's BEPS tools featured in a 2018 book by Richard Brooks:[11]

With pressure on the Dutch Government to stop functioning as a tax avoidance conduit, in 2010 O'Rourke successfully lobbied for withholding taxes paid on royalties paid out of Ireland to be scrapped altogether [removing the need for the Dutch Sandwich component of the double Irish BEPS tool].

— Richard Brooks, Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and how they broke Capitalism (June 2018)[11]

The €13 billion fine levied by the EU Commission on Apple's Double Irish BEPS tool, for Irish taxes avoided from 2004 to 2014,[12] is the largest corporate tax fine in history.[10] O'Rourke's PwC (Ireland) tax practice represented the Irish State in its tax defence, during the commission's Apple investigation.[b][13] O'Rourke rejects the labels, but also rejects the notion that the Irish tax code shouldn't legally, and transparently, exploit loopholes in the US tax code:

Feargal O'Rourke: "Why should Ireland be the policeman for the US?" he asks. "They can change the law like that!" He snaps his fingers. "I could draft a bill for them in an hour." "Under no circumstances is Ireland a tax haven. I'm a player in this game and we play by the rules."

— Jesse Drucker, Bloomberg, Man Making Ireland Tax Avoidance Hub Proves Local Hero, 28 October 2013[3]

Other Irish financial commentators have taken a different view on this strategy:

O'Rourke and other accountants like him "think up these tax strategies and the impact is tens of billions in lost tax revenue in Europe, the US and less-developed countries", says Jim Stewart, associate professor of finance at Trinity College's school of business. "He's a very aggressive leader of the tax-avoidance industry here."

— Jesse Drucker, Bloomberg, Man Making Ireland Tax Avoidance Hub Proves Local Hero, 28 October 2013[3]

In October 2013, O'Rourke predicted the end of the Double Irish,[14] which was closed to new entrants in January 2015.[15][16] New Irish BEPS tools replaced it: the Single Malt scheme[17] (used by Microsoft and Allergan), and the Capital Allowances for Intangible Assets ("CAIA") scheme,[18][19][20] (used by Apple in its Q1 2015 restructuring). It was O'Rourke's 2009 Commission on Taxation,[a] that recommended expanding Irish capital allowances tax scheme to intangible assets creating the CAIA BEPS tool in the 2009 Finance Act.[21] Accenture was an early user of the CAIA BEPS tool, when it executed the first corporate tax inversion to Ireland in 2009.[22][23]

Effective tax ratesEdit

In January 2014, O'Rourke publicly defended Ireland's BEPS tools, when the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) method of calculating effective tax rates (ETRs), showed Ireland's corporate ETR was between 2.2% to 3.8%.[24][25][26][27] It renewed international controversy on Ireland as a corporate tax haven.[28][29][30] O'Rourke defended Ireland's ETR as being close to the headline Irish corporate tax rate of 12.5%, and quoted the World Bank/PwC survey.[31][32] In one February 2014 radio interview, O'Rourke asserted that "there was a hole the size of the Grand Canyon", in the BEA analysis of Ireland's ETR.[33][34]

The disconnect lies in the distinction between Ireland's corporation tax "regime" versus Ireland's corporation tax "rate", which was highlighted by the EU Commission's 2016 findings against Apple's double Irish tax system in Ireland. According to the Irish Revenue, Apple had being paying the full Irish 12.5% tax rate on what Revenue considered to be "taxable profits" in Ireland[35] The EU Commission found a very different situation:[36]

Selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 per cent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014.

Experts note the potency of Ireland's corporation tax regime, and O'Rourke's BEPS tools, as opposed to the headline 12.5% corporate tax rate.[37][38]

Applying a 12.5% rate in a tax code that shields most profits from taxation, is indistinguishable from applying a near 0% rate in a normal tax code.

— Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg View, 11 February 2014[28]


The ETRs of 0–2.5% from O'Rourke's BEPS tools have drawn international criticism.[39][40][41][42] Academic research has shown Ireland as a major tax haven, and in June 2018 tax academics showed Ireland to be the largest global tax haven, helping U.S. multinationals to shield over $100 billion in annual profits from Irish and U.S. taxation.[43][44][45]

O'Rourke's defense of Ireland's low corporate ETRs for U.S.–controlled multinationals is part of Ireland's "green jersey agenda" to advance "Ireland Inc." over other potential consequences, such as reputation or financial risk, which is not an uncommon political strategy in Ireland.[46][47]

Regardless of the tax losses to other nations, O'Rourke's BEPS tools have brought prosperity to Ireland. 25 of Ireland's top 50 firms (by turnover) are U.S.–controlled multinationals, employing one quarter of Ireland's private sector workforce,[48] paying 80% of Irish business taxes,[49] and creating 57% of Irish private sector non-farm value-add in Ireland.[48] (see low tax economy). O'Rourke's BEPS tools however have been less effective in attracting non–U.S. multinationals to Ireland, or more accurately, multinationals from "territorial" tax systems (e.g. the U.K post their 2009 transformation to a "territorial" tax system).

Bloomberg noted in October 2013 that O'Rourke is regarded a "hero" in Ireland.[3] He is a sought after commentator on the Irish economy,[50] and on Irish corporate taxation policy.[51] O'Rourke has sat on several major Irish State taxation review groups, including the major 2009 Commission on Taxation,[21][52] and is one of the 5 people named in Ireland's "Independent Persons of Standing" list under the Double Taxation Arbitration Convention.[53]

In February 2014, he was named in The Irish Times 50 people who run Ireland list.[54] O'Rourke sits on the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, the lobby group for U.S. multinationals in Ireland.[55] In March 2018, he noted the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will be a challenge to Ireland's U.S. economic model but that Ireland should be able to withstand it.[56] In April 2018, he advised that the Irish State should build a rainy day fund.[57] O'Rourke maintains an active Twitter account.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b O'Rourke was the most senior tax figure on the 2009 Irish State's Commission on Taxation, which recommended expanding capital allowances to intangible assets, thus creating the CAIA BEPS tool
  2. ^ There is no verifiable reference as to whether Apple is a client of PWC Ireland


  1. ^ "A new frontier: Tax Guru Feargal O'Rourke as new PwC managing partner". Chartered Accountants Ireland. 1 August 2015.
  2. ^ "PwC elects Feargal O'Rourke as new senior partner". The Irish Times. 18 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jesse Drucker (28 October 2013). "Man Making Ireland Tax Avoidance Hub Proves Local Hero". Bloomberg News.
  4. ^ a b c "Controversial tax strategies brainchild of O'Rourke's son". Irish Independent. 3 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Scion of a prominent political dynasty who gave his vote to accountancy". The Irish Times. 8 May 2015.
  6. ^ "'Double Irish' and 'Dutch Sandwich' saved Google $3.7bn in tax in 2016". The Irish Times. 2 January 2018.
  7. ^ "The Non-Existent Irish Tax Loophole Being Used By Microsoft, Google, Linked In, Twitter, Apple, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh And All". Forbes. 28 October 2013.
  8. ^ "'Double Irish' limits Facebook's tax bill to €1.9m in Ireland". Financial Times. 5 December 2013.
  9. ^ "After a Tax Crackdown, Apple Found a New Shelter for Its Profits". The New York Times. 6 November 2017.
  10. ^ a b Foroohar, Rana (30 August 2016). "Apple vs. the E.U. Is the Biggest Tax Battle in History". Time. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b Richard Brooks (June 2018). Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and how they broke Capitalism. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1786490285.
  12. ^ Barrera, Rita; Bustamante, Jessica (2 August 2017). "The Rotten Apple: Tax Avoidance in Ireland". The International Trade Journal. 32: 150–161. doi:10.1080/08853908.2017.1356250. S2CID 158385468.
  13. ^ "Ireland spent €440k on a report defending Apple months before the EU's scathing tax ruling". TheJournal.ie. February 2017.
  14. ^ "Days of 'Double Irish' tax scheme are numbered, says PwC's O'Rourke". The Irish Times. 30 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Brussels in crackdown on 'double Irish' tax loophole". Financial Times. October 2014.
  16. ^ "Ireland's move to close the 'double Irish' tax loophole unlikely to bother Apple, Google". The Guardian. October 2014.
  17. ^ "Multinationals replacing 'Double Irish' with new tax avoidance scheme". Irish Independent. 9 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Maples and Calder Irish Intellectual Property Tax Regime - 2.5% Effective Tax". Maples and Calder Law Firm. February 2018.
  19. ^ "Apple's Irish Tax Deals". European United Left–Nordic Green Left. June 2018.
  20. ^ "New Report on Apple's New Irish Tax Structure". Tax Justice Network. June 2018.
  21. ^ a b Daly, Frank; Arnold, Tom; Burke, Julie; Collins, Micheál; Convery, Frank J.; Donohue, Tom; Fahy, Eoin; Hunt, Colin; Leech, Sinead; Lucey, Con; McCoy, Danny; O'Rourke, Feargal; O'Sullivan, Mary; Redmond, Mark; Soffe, Willie; Walsh, Mary; Taxation, Ireland Commission on (September 2009). "Commission on Taxation report 2009". UCD Archives.
  22. ^ "Uses of Ireland for German Companies: Irish "Intellectual Property" Tax of 2.5% ETR" (PDF). Arthur Cox Law Firm. January 2012. p. 3. Intellectual Property: The effective corporation tax rate can be reduced to as low as 2.5% for Irish companies whose trade involves the exploitation of intellectual property. The Irish IP regime is broad and applies to all types of IP. A generous scheme of capital allowances in Ireland offers significant incentives to companies who locate their activities in Ireland. A well-known global company [Accenture in 2009] recently moved the ownership and exploitation of an IP portfolio worth approximately $7 billion to Ireland
  23. ^ Vincent Ryan (24 January 2012). "Firm gets tax relief on $7bn rights: Accenture". Irish Examiner. Multinational management consultancy Accenture is receiving tax relief on the $7bn (€5.4bn) it spent building up a portfolio of intellectual property rights. ... The Arthur Cox document, 'Uses of Ireland for German Companies', states: "A well-known global company recently moved the ownership and exploitation of an intellectual property portfolio worth approximately $7bn to Ireland."
  24. ^ "US firms 'paid effective tax rate of 2.2% in 2011'". The Irish Times. 11 February 2014.
  25. ^ "Effective Corporate Tax calculations: 2.2%". The Irish Times. 14 February 2014.
  26. ^ "Multinationals escape tax due to 'exceptional' rules, study claims". The Irish Times. 6 May 2014.
  27. ^ "Ireland: Where Profits Pile Up, Helping Multinationals Keep Taxes Low at 3%". Bloomberg. 28 October 2014.
  28. ^ a b "Weil on Finance: Yes, Ireland Is a Tax Haven". Bloomberg News. 11 February 2014.
  29. ^ "If Ireland Is Not A Tax Haven, What Is It?". Forbes. November 2014.
  30. ^ "Irish PM counters corporate tax rate claims". CNBC. February 2014.
  31. ^ "Effective Corporate Tax in Ireland: April 2014" (PDF). Department of Finance. April 2014.
  32. ^ "Cantillon: Transparency the first victim in tax debate". The Irish Times. 18 February 2014.
  33. ^ Paul Hosford (15 February 2014). "Multinational companies paid just 2.2 per cent tax in 2011 - report". TheJournal.ie. [Dr. Stewart] criticised the report's use of a single company for a host of countries across the world, telling RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the PWC report was based on a "fictitious or hypothetical" company, adding: You can't say we have an effective tax rate of 11.9 per cent. Fergal O'Rourke from PWC, however, defended his company's findings, saying that Stewart was counting companies incorporated in Ireland, but that had never operated here. "There's a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in the data.
  34. ^ "Feargal O'Rourke defends Ireland's 2.2% corporate tax rate". Finfacts. 11 February 2018.
  35. ^ "Revenue insists it collected all taxes Apple owed". The Irish Times. 30 August 2016.
  36. ^ a b "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - State aid: Ireland gave illegal tax benefits to Apple worth up to €13 billion". europa.eu. 30 August 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  37. ^ Misleadingly, studies cited by The Irish Times and other outlets suggest that the effective tax rate is close to the headline 12.5 percent rate – but this is a fictional result based on a theoretical 'standard firm with 60 employees' and no exports: it is entirely inapplicable to transnationals. Though there are various ways to calculate effective tax rates, other studies find rates of just 2.5–4.5 percent."Tax Justice Network: Ireland Financial Secrecy Index Country Report 2014" (PDF). Tax Justice Network. November 2014.
  38. ^ Gabriel Zucman (June 2018). "Appendix Table 2: The Missing Profits of Nations". University of Berkley. p. 31. Ireland's effective tax rate on all foreign corporates (U.S. and non-U.S.) is 4%
  39. ^ "The United States' new view of Ireland: 'tax haven'". The Irish Times. January 2017.
  40. ^ "Joseph Stiglitz: 'Cheating' Ireland, muddled Europe". The Irish Examiner. 2 September 2016.
  41. ^ "'That's a joke', 'stealing': Ireland's low corporate tax rate criticised at Davos". TheJournal.ie. 16 January 2018.
  42. ^ "Luxembourg PM blasts Ireland's low corporate tax Rate". The Irish Examiner. 6 March 2018.
  43. ^ "The Missing Profits of Nations" (PDF). Gabriel Zucman (University of Berkley). April 2018. p. 68.
  44. ^ "The desperate inequality behind global tax dodging". The Guardian. 8 November 2017.
  45. ^ "Ireland is the world's biggest corporate 'tax haven', say academics". The Irish Times. 13 June 2018. Study claims State shelters more multinational profits than the entire Caribbean
  46. ^ "Dáil Éireann debate - Thursday, 23 Nov 2017". House of the Oireachtas. 23 November 2017. Pearse Doherty: It was interesting that when [MEP] Matt Carthy put that to the Minister's predecessor (Michael Noonan), his response was that this was very unpatriotic and he should wear the green jersey. That was the former Minister's response to the fact there is a major loophole, whether intentional or unintentional, in our tax code that has allowed large companies to continue to use the double Irish [called single malt].
  47. ^ "Former Regulator says Irish politicians mindless of IFSC risks in "green jersey" agenda". The Irish Times. 5 March 2018.
  48. ^ a b "IRELAND Trade and Statistical Note 2017" (PDF). OECD. 2017.
  49. ^ "An Analysis of 2015 Corporation Tax Returns and 2016 Payments" (PDF). Revenue Commissioners. April 2017.
  50. ^ "'Big Four' consultancy special: Feargal O'Rourke of PwC talks Brexit, FDI, employing 2,600, and accommodation". Irish Independent. 11 March 2018.
  51. ^ Connolly, Philip (25 March 2018). "PwC boss: EU digital tax proposal is 'not fit for purpose'". The Sunday Times.
  52. ^ "Commission on Taxation Report Ireland 2009: Proposed property tax, a carbon tax, and domestic water charges as part of overhaul of Irish tax system". FinFacts. 7 September 2009.
  53. ^ "90/463/EEC Convention on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises (Arbitration convention). List of independent persons of standing (November 2015)" (PDF). European Commission. 2015.
  54. ^ "Who runs Ireland? The 50 people - in public service, business and law - who run the Republic". The Irish Times. 8 February 2014. Feargal O'Rourke Head of tax, PricewaterhouseCoopers : O'Rourke advises multinationals on their tax issues in Ireland. These are reputed to include Google and Intel. US groups have drawn criticism on Capitol Hill for using Irish subsidiaries to minimise their tax burden, but O'Rourke, a son of the former Fianna Fáil minister Mary O'Rourke, is a defender of the Irish regime. He has sat on the Commission on Taxation and on the board of Forfás, the State body for industrial policy.
  55. ^ "American Chamber of Commerce Ireland Board". American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. 2018.
  56. ^ "What does US Tax reform mean for Ireland?" (PDF). Accountancy Plus. March 2018.
  57. ^ "'Frothiness' of corporate tax revenues the risk to economy, says PwC chief". The Irish Times. 24 April 2018.