Trinity plan tax avoidance for new online sector

Trinity College Dublin has approved plans to create a new legal entity that will allow it to avoid paying tax on the profits generated by its new online sector. The new entity will be known as “Trinity Dublin Online” and will be responsible for all online education at the college.

The proposal was approved by the university board on November 5th. The proposal included detailed earnings projections which envisioned the online division reaching profits of €1 million per year by the 2019/20 academic year. It is estimated that it will cost €2.1 million to set up.

The expansion of Trinity’s online courses was an important objective of their latest five year strategic plan which was launched earlier this year. The college will focus on Continuous Professional Development courses aimed at people already in the workplace.

Trinity plans on seeking charitable status from the Revenue Commissioners for the new entity. If this status is granted the university will be exempt from paying tax on any profits generated by incoming tuition fees.

No tax is currently paid on tuition revenues for traditional courses at Trinity. This is due to the courses being accredited under the national education system. The proposed online courses would be self accredited and therefore would not be exempt under normal circumstances.

Trinity Dublin Online plans on having roughly 1000 students spread over 19 courses. The initial fees are being proposed at €3,500 for a postgraduate certificate, €5,500 for a postgraduate diploma, and €10,000 for a postgraduate masters. Each course will be sponsored by an individual member of the college’s academic staff.

Trinity has already launched its first open-access, online-only course. Irish Lives in War and Revolution. This was set up as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in September and ran for six weeks, with over 10,000 people participating.

John Casey

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