U2 Payouts To Mystery Employees

U2 Ltd., the Irish band’s music publishing company, raked in $30 million-plus last year and $25.8 million of it went to five unidentified "employees," according to documents obtained by Associated Press.

Those "employees" are suspected to be the band members and their longtime manager, Paul McGuinness.

While Bono has won accolades worldwide for raising awareness of Third World poverty, he has been criticized for moving U2’s corporate offices out of Ireland to avoid paying taxes.

The U2 Ltd. documents show the band moved its corporate base last year from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

The move, while perfectly legal, strikes a raw nerve in Ireland, whose wealthiest citizens often live as tax exiles in other European countries.

U2 Ltd.’s move to the Netherlands coincided with the appearance on its accounts, for the first time, of five "employees."

The documents, which were filed at the Irish Companies Registration Office in Dublin at the end of October, record that the four band members – Paul "Bono" Hewson, Dave "The Edge" Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. – quit the U2 Ltd. board when the company relocated to Amsterdam in June 2006.

The documents offered no breakdown of pay to the five. Previous years’ U2 Ltd. accounts, produced when the U2 members were still company directors, listed employee salaries as zero.

U2 Ltd. said it paid nearly $1.1 million in 2006 tax to Ireland, compared with $46,500 in 2005.

The increased tax bill in 2006 reflects U2’s sudden exposure to taxes on royalty income in Ireland. Last year the government – stung by criticism that its traditional tax-free status for artists was not intended to support multimillionaires like U2 – capped the tax-free benefit at $360,000 annually.

Within months, U2 relocated its corporate base to Amsterdam.

The U2 Ltd. documents are unrelated to the band’s profits from its most recent worldwide tour, which grossed more than $250 million.

Bono and the other U2 members regularly make lists of Ireland’s wealthiest people. One often-published figure estimates their wealth at $860 million, but the figure has proved impossible to document given the band’s myriad investment projects and companies.