Doing Business in Ireland Guide 2012

Author:Mr Liam Quirke
Profession:Matheson Ormsby Prentice

1 Introduction

Over 1,000 international companies have operations in Ireland. These companies are involved in a wide range of activities and sectors including technology, pharmaceuticals, biosciences, financial services and manufacturing. The attraction of Ireland as an investment location can be attributed to the positive approach of successive Irish Governments to the promotion of inward investment, its membership of the European Union (EU), a very favourable corporate tax rate and a skilled and flexible labour pool.

The purpose of this Guide is to provide an introduction to the major commercial and legal issues to be considered by international companies establishing business operations in Ireland and it provides general observations and guidance to the many questions we have encountered from clients. Particular businesses or industries may also be subject to specific legal requirements and specific advice may be required in these circumstances.

2 Why Invest in Ireland?

In 2010, Forbes ranked Ireland 1st in the eurozone as 1 of the best countries for business. Ireland has succeeded in attracting some of the world's largest companies to establish operations here. This includes some of the largest companies in the global technology, pharmaceutical, biosciences, manufacturing and financial services industries.

They are in Ireland because Ireland delivers:

low corporate tax rate - corporation tax on trading profits is 12.5% and the regime does not breach EU or OECD harmful tax competition criteria; regulatory, economic and people infrastructure of a highlydeveloped OECD jurisdiction; benefits of EU membership and of being an English-speaking jurisdiction in the eurozone; common law jurisdiction, with a legal system that is broadly similar to the US and the UK systems; refundable tax credit for research and development activity and other incentives; and extensive and expanding double tax treaty network, with almost 60 countries, including the US, UK, China and Japan. Our experience and research carried out in 2011 by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of our firm, indicates that it is the unique combination of these factors, and not 1 specific element, which attracts investment to Ireland. For example, while other countries may be competitive in some of the areas highlighted above, Ireland's ability to create the most compelling suite of both tangible factors (such as taxation and the regulatory framework) and more intangible elements (such as a "can do" attitude to business) is generally cited as central to its ability to attract investment over other EU countries.

3 Ireland: An Overview

Some of the largest companies in the world have located in Ireland, including:

The Economist Intelligence Unit report on "Investing in Ireland: a survey of foreign direct investors", commissioned by Matheson Ormsby Prentice, examines the key factors that bring foreign investment to Ireland. The report identified 4 key cornerstones to Ireland's FDI offering:

access to the EU internal market the overall taxation infrastructure the ability to supply a skilled pool of labour a stable legal and fiscal framework


The population of Ireland now exceeds 4.2 million people.


Ireland is an island situated off the north west of the European continent. Dublin is on the east coast, is the capital city, and has a population of over 1 million people. It is 1 hour by air from London and 90 minutes from Paris and Brussels.


English is the main language, making Ireland the only eurozone country in which English is the principle language.

Political and legal system

Ireland is a stable parliamentary democracy with a written constitution and 2 houses of parliament. While the President is the constitutional Head of State, the powers and functions of the Presidential office are largely ceremonial. The Government is elected for 5-year terms and controls the legislative and political process. Ireland is a member of the EU and the United Nations. Irish law is based on common law legislation, the Irish Constitution and EU law and Ireland has a very similar legal system to the UK and the USA. Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, operates in a separate political and legal system which is not addressed in this Guide.


The currency of Ireland is the euro. Over the past decade, economic growth rates in Ireland have been consistently among the highest of OECD countries (countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Irish Government policy has been and continues to be directed towards the creation of a stable economic environment that is supportive of the needs of business. Over the last 10 years, the number employed in industry and services has increased significantly and expansion has been particularly rapid in the areas of computer software/ hardware, electronic engineering, food, pharmaceutical, healthcare and consumer products.

Transport Infrastructure

International and internal transport services are well developed. The island of Ireland has a number of large ports and there are international airports in...

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