Over at Bloomberg, Jesse Drucker has a lengthy profile of PwC Partner Feargal O'Rourke, the head of the firm's tax practice in Ireland.
As you know, Ireland figures quite prominently into tax planning strategies for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple and untold others who solemnly swear that they're in full compliance with the tax law.
Which is true, of course. That's what makes the use of tax havens like Ireland so diabolical. Executives like Tim Cook can sit in front of a blustery Carl Levin and say with a straight face, "We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar. We don't depend on tax gimmicks," while the rest of us vomit into our own mouths.
O'Rourke is described as the "grand architect" of these strategies and dude absolutely believes in it. Tax planning is this guy's religion. "Under no circumstances is Ireland a tax haven,” he says. “I’m a player in this game and we play by the rules," he told Drucker, smiling smugly in our imaginations.
There are subtle clues (e.g. "He identifies himself as a 'JFK Democrat or a Rockefeller Republican.' ") and explicit statements (e.g. He's "a scion of a political dynasty") throughout the piece that illustrates O'Rourke as someone who understands that affluence and influence dominate policy because it is entwined in his DNA, but he also knows its drawbacks:
“I have been extraordinarily careful over the years to ensure that no one could ever make a valid criticism of me that I got to where I am because of my family background,” he said.
His words throughout this interview are as deliberate as the strategies he sells to clients. In form, they are 100% true; in substance, they are a simply one version of the truth. And what do you expect? It's tax law which means well-financed interests had a major hand in its development with the express purpose for it to be a indecipherable maze. This allows guys like O'Rourke to navigate the maze, who get paid truckloads of money to save his clients boatloads more.
This is how tax legislating works. The complexity is not complicated.
O'Rourke of course knows this and he's also aware that some people — mostly U.S. lawmakers — don't like it. Lucky for them, he has a solution:
O’Rourke often speaks loudly and excitedly, gesturing with his hands, yet is careful not to let disagreements turn into arguments. He said the finger-pointing at Ireland and at his profession is misdirected, and politicians around the world complaining about tax avoidance have only themselves to blame. “Why should Ireland be the policeman for the U.S.?” he asks. “They can change the law” — he snaps his fingers — “like that! I could draft a bill for them in an hour.”
If by "they" he means "Congress" than obviously someone hasn't been paying attention to U.S. news lately. But never mind that. If he can get a draft of a bill put together for roughly $1,000, give or take a few hundred, that would be a start.