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Ireland closing a tax loophole that saved billions for Apple, Google, and Facebook

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The death of the infamous "double Irish"

Irish Flag Flickr Tom Raftery

Over the last decade many of the biggest tech companies in the world have opened headquarters in Ireland. Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and many more were no doubt drawn by the smart programming talent and availability of awesome pubs. But another big factor was a tax loophole known as the "double Irish" that allowed company with a headquarters in Ireland to make royalty payments to a separate subsidiary registered in Ireland but officially housed anywhere on the globe with a favorable tax rate. So Google, for example, has a Dublin office with around 2,500 employees, but most of the revenue booked in Ireland is then paid as royalties to a separate subsidiary, headquartered for tax purposes in Bermuda.

According to a report in the New York Times, that loophole is going to be closed. "Aggressive tax planning by the multinational companies has been criticized by governments across the globe and has damaged the reputation of many countries," Ireland’s finance minister, Michael Noonan, told his country's Parliament today. "I am abolishing the ability of companies to use the ‘double Irish’ by changing our residency rules to require all companies registered in Ireland to also be tax resident[s]."

Those are stern words, but don't fear for the financial health of these tech titans just yet. Companies already using the "double Irish" will be allowed to continue doing so until 2020, giving them plenty of time to find a new host country with a more hospitable outlook on international taxation.