Counting ‘tax expenditures’ is not simple. On the face of it, if a low rate of tax is charged on a specific item, or its usage for a specific purpose or by a specific group, this looks like a handout and attracts suspicion. There is a loss of potential revenue as against whatever is the standard rate of tax.

The Government’s Commission on Taxation and Welfare, which reported last month, has a lot to say about tax expenditures since there are dozens in the Irish tax code, including some where the revenue foregone is measured in the hundreds of millions.