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The Unforgettable Fire was a beautifully out-of-focus record, blurred like an impressionist painting, very unlike a billboard or an advertising slogan." -- Bono

Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling on U2's Tax Exemption

Boston Herald
As Bono and the band relax today at the Four Seasons between sellout U2 gigs at the Garden, they hardly look like candidates for a government handout.

Back in their native Ireland, others are having the same thought.

Pressure is growing in Ireland to cap a tax exemption that has saved U2 and other Irish stars millions in taxes over the years.

The republic currently exempts artists, writers and performers from income tax on earnings from original works.

The exemption was created in the 1960s to help those romantic artistic figures of yore - men with holes in their sweaters who spent days downing Guinness in Dublin pubs, each "working on my novel" for 10 years.

But stars such as U2 and the Corrs don't exactly fit that picture.

The BBC this week estimated U2 had made $1.1 billion since 1990 from tours, record sales and songwriting royalties.

Bono's personal fortune is estimated at nearly $200 million.

Much of that came from tax-free income. Only money earned outside Ireland -- such as in U.S. concerts -- faces tax bills.

But now, the Irish government has set up an inquiry to look at changing the law. In future, the exemption may be capped at around $125,000 a year.

The government is responding to pressure from the European Union -- and public opinion.

Meanwhile, U2 faces American taxes -- including those from the state -- for this week's Boston concert revenues.

The state Department of Revenue yesterday confirmed that it will present a bill to Bono and U2's other members for 5.3 percent of money the band earned in the state.

© Boston Herald, 2005.