Ireland has been quietly working in the pension area to see if it can come up with some form of pensions pooling vehicle, according to Paul Cummins, tax partner with Price Waterhouse Coopers in Dublin.

Cummins, who chairs the pensions pooling group in Ireland, a joint industry -government body, which is designed to make Ireland a more attractive location for pensions-related activities, was speaking at a recent conference in London.

Looking Luxembourg's aims with its new pensions pooling structures, the Sepcav and the Assep, he said with particular regard to the taxation aspect: It remains to be seen, how successful these vehicles would be in practice. My view is that at this stage the proposals are far from being a pan-European pensions solution." Neither would they be ideal for pensions asset pooling, he added.

"The big search in Europe at the mo-ment is to find a vehicle, not so much to create tax advantages or tax arbitrage, as to limit the disadvantages." One of the problems with pooling was that once the assets were put into an intermediate non-pension vehicle the tax benefits could also be lost.

"In Ireland, we have been trying to create a vehicle which pension schemes from different countries could invest into a vehicle which would avoid the negative aspects," he said. The vehicle would be a transparent fund. "The pension scheme invested in the fund would be regarded as investing directly in the underlying securities."

In 1994, the country introduced the Irish investment limited partnership (IILP) and he suggested that this could be used by pensions schemes to advantage. "The idea is that pension schemes from different countries could invest in an IILP and invest from there into US securities." From research he has undertaken, he reckons that the treaties of the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland and South Africa, would operate in relation for income and capital gains when investing in US securities. "If that is the case, there is no reason why those countries would not also recognise the benefits of investing in an ILP in those same countries.""