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What tax evasion robs us of

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, April 14th, 2016 - 43 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, tax, us politics, wages - Tags: , , , ,

Tax evasion is illegal. Tax avoidance is a moral grey-zone. They both cost governments income that could be used to further the public good. This interesting piece by Colin Holtz in The Guardian looks at the costs of tax evasion, and how (in America) the missing funds could be used to fund a UBI:

The Panama Papers prove it: America can afford a universal basic income

If the super-rich actually paid what they owe in taxes, the US would have loads more money available for public services

Called a universal basic income by supporters, the idea has has attracted support throughout American history, from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King Jr. But it has also faced unending criticism for one particular reason: the advocates of “austerity” say we simply can’t afford it – or any other dramatic spending on social security.

That argument dissolved this week with the release of the Panama Papers, which reveal the elaborate methods used by the wealthy to avoid paying back the societies that helped them to gain their wealth in the first place.

But while working and middle-class families pay their taxes or face consequences, the Panama Papers remind us that the worst of the 1% have, for years, essentially been stealing access to Americans’ common birthright, and to the benefits of our shared endeavors.

The Tax Justice Network estimates the global elite are sitting on $21–32tn of untaxed assets. Clearly, only a portion of that is owed to the US or any other nation in taxes – the highest tax bracket in the US is 39.6% of income. But consider that a small universal income of $2,000 a year to every adult in the US – enough to keep some people from missing a mortgage payment or skimping on food or medicine – would cost only around $563bn each year.

A larger income, to ensure that no American fell into absolute abject poverty – say, $12,000 a year – would cost around $3.6tn. That is a big number, but one that once again seems far more reasonable when considered through the lens of the Panama Papers and the scandal of global tax evasion. Because the truth is that we have all been robbed, systematically, by the world’s wealthiest people, for decades. They have used those stolen dollars to build yet more wealth for themselves, and all the while we have been arguing with ourselves over what to do with the leftover pennies.

Enough. We have the money to solve our problems. The first step is to stop the global elite from hoarding and hiding it. …

43 comments on “What tax evasion robs us of ”

  1. johnm 1

    Shocking the cruel anti social greed of these people. It’s so entrenched now nothing short of revolution can remedy it. The super rich must look around and see the devastation they’ve caused, but to them that’s just man’s natural state of existence. They don’t care.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      The author’s other article makes interesting points on that as well:

      Now, the good news: those big-government policies that Republicans – and even some Democrats – love to condemn might actually save lives.

      The same study found that the gap in lifespan varied not only based on income, but also location. Poor Americans in liberal enclaves such as New York City and San Francisco lived longer than those in cities such as Dallas and Detroit, a surprising statistic which the study’s authors chalk up to social spending and public health policies in those areas.

      New York City, for example, spends heavily on healthcare assistance and anti-poverty programs. The budget of the department of social services is second only to city spending on education, and the city makes significant investments in medical assistance.

      But it is government policies that promote healthy habits which make the biggest difference, according to the study’s authors. The cities where the poor live longer also promote walking and have strong systems of public transit, instead of prioritizing cars over pedestrians and cyclists.

      Perhaps it’s time that we started to respond to the RWNJs demand for tax cuts by saying that they just want to kill people. Because that is the inevitable result of the policies – more death.

      • Bob 1.1.1

        “Perhaps it’s time that we started to respond to the RWNJs demand for tax cuts by saying that they just want to kill people. Because that is the inevitable result of the policies – more death.”
        Perhaps its time that Loony Lefties realise that you can increase tax all you like, all that happens is that tax avoidance increases.
        What we should be looking at is a flat tax in the low 20% mark across all income (preferably with a tax free threshold to make it more progressive) so we can spend less time attacking the working class and more time catching tax cheats!

        The reason for the low 20% tax rate, Hausers law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauser%27s_law

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          Perhaps its time that Loony Lefties realise that you can increase tax all you like, all that happens is that tax avoidance increases.

          At which point we book them for murder, take everything off them and throw them in jail.

          Think these people will continue to avoid taxes after that?

          What we should be looking at is a flat tax in the low 20% mark across all income (preferably with a tax free threshold to make it more progressive) so we can spend less time attacking the working class and more time catching tax cheats!

          Dude, the government and the MSM spend more time attacking the poor so as to distract from the tax cheats.

          And, no, a low flat tax won’t work. Or, to be more precise, you get a flat tax from having everyone in the same income bracket. It’s also better for society.

  2. Ad 2

    Thankyou Guardian well said.
    Tax is the primary contract of a civil society.

  3. saveNZ 3

    +1000000!!!!

    Great post. It is really important that focus stays on this issue. It is now quasi legal it seems to have a two tired tax system where those who have enough money and resources are able to avoid paying taxes. Maybe or maybe not legitimately, who knows, with the laws so complicated, the secrecy so great, and those using them so powerful that they can just decide not to pay taxes and negotiate an outcome in the slim chance they are caught.

    Taxation has not kept up with globalism, so now increasingly people are able to move their money and assets around to avoid taxes, easily money launder cash from bribes or crime or even just deprive other family members of matrimonial wealth or stolen property (like Nazi paintings).

    It is not really a cut or dried question anymore. Instead of TPPA being rammed through to increase tax evasion, there should be more global agreements to make sure corporations and individuals pay local taxes at the same rate as local companies and individuals.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      there should be more global agreements to make sure corporations and individuals pay local taxes at the same rate as local companies and individuals.

      Don’t need an international agreement for that. Just need local laws to ensure that companies pay the same tax.

      A cashless society would go a long way to achieve that.

      • Mike S 3.1.1

        Unless those who suggest those laws or try and enact them are classed as national security risks and have access to their digital money simply switched off so they are unable to function.

        There are some pro’s to a cashless society, but there are some really serious cons as well.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          We can, and do, switch peoples access to money off – just ask KDC.

          That’s not really the problem. The problem is that some people will try to abuse the system and so you make it so that they can’t (or at least have great difficulty and it comes with loss of everything they own and a long jail sentence when they get caught).

          What I find with people is that they blow the risks of electronic system up out of all proportion of the actual risks and they also fail to relate them to the risks that already exist which are pretty much on a par. The tax avoidance that we have now, and of which the Panama Papers are just a small part of, could not happen under the electronic system that I propose.

          That would bring something between 21 trillion and 32 trillion back into the purview of the governments and thus the people.

  4. saveNZ 4

    A funny analogy from Frankie Boyle about tax havens…

    “I should perhaps come clean and tell you that the worst holiday I’ve ever had was in the British Virgin Islands. There is so much money sloshing around that I saw seabirds stranded on the shores, collected by volunteers and taken to wildlife shelters, where skilled vets carefully removed the wads of cash clogging up their feathers. I saw a heron have enough roubles pulled from its wings to buy a decent family hatchback. I remember a pelican, its bill pouch stuffed to bursting, crumpled euros and untraceable yen spilling from its mouth like a stripper’s thong. In a restaurant, for dessert I was served a battered suitcase brimming over with 200m euros’ worth of bearer shares. When I told the waiter that I’d ordered the creme brûlée, he gave a dry chuckle and said that he must have misheard. He let me keep the suitcase saying that there was plenty more where that came from.

    At night, we gathered on a starlit veranda to watch the arrival of the cash. It’s one of nature’s most epic sights. First we heard the grunting, faint at first but then louder, until by just the accents alone we could almost tell the Russian from the Australian from the French. The sea began to foam, the frenzied activity just offshore. And then they landed. Huge creatures, some as massive as an alpha walrus. Fat, and breathing heavily, they heaved themselves on to the shore. Hundreds, if not thousands. Lawyers, drug lords, politicians, prime ministers, mafia members, businessmen, peers of the realm, sex offenders and a cellist. Their bodies warm and fleshy. It had been a good summer.

    This mass of quivering corporate meat quickly made its way towards the dunes. Dragging themselves forward. Thinking only of themselves. Smaller, weaker animals were crushed, suffocated. Then in a hysterical free-for-all using hands, feet, snouts, they dig. Each of these secretive creatures digs its own filthy hole. And then lumbering into position, lower their “vent” into the crater. It’s then that they began laying. Firing into the golden sand wads of unmarked bills, fake invoices, untraceable companies, gold bullion. It takes but a moment, the animals moving quickly so as not to be exposed on the shore for any longer than necessary. Then, with feverish activity from their hindquarters, the hole is backfilled. Without so much as a fingerprint left in the sand they shuffle, belly-first back towards the sea.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/12/frankie-boyle-tax-havens-panama-papers

    • Shifty 4.1

      +1
      the resemblance makes me fidgety and uncomfortable

    • greywarshark 4.2

      savenz Brilliant.

    • pat 4.3

      Good (?) link but feel you missed the most pertinent bit…..

      “They raise their heads to the moon and roar. It is a primeval sound, and one by one they all join in. Soon the waves crashing on to the beach are drowned out by the beasts. There is a final sight of them before they are drawn back into the black tide, anonymous, and free. This is something that will happen forever, which scientists now estimate might be as little as 30 or 40 years.”

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Because the truth is that we have all been robbed, systematically, by the world’s wealthiest people, for decades.

    As I say: Being rich is evidence of systematic theft.

    • tinfoilhat 5.1

      “As I say: Being rich is evidence of systematic theft.”

      I’d guess before making comment on such a statement it would depend on how you define “being rich” and “systematic theft”

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Any income at all from assets.

        • Phil 5.1.1.1

          I often wondered what the left wing equivalent of the hilariously bullshit right wing “taxation is theft” meme might be… Thanks, DTB!

          • tinfoilhat 5.1.1.1.1

            yep…

            • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1.1

              And I should point out that it’s not ‘Left’ – just my own definition.

              I’ve been thinking about how the rich are detrimental to society for awhile and realised it’s because they take from others through interest/shareholding/asset ownership etc.

              And, yes, I know you’re going to come back with the modern definition of usury being about excessive interest. But that is the modern definition but I find the original meaning of any interest far better.

              Then I considered what interest actually is and it’s income from others work. Which means that usury can be extended to cover shareholding and other assets that return an income which is generated from others working.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.2

            /shrug

            There’s a reason why the major religions and several societies throughout history all banned usury. It destroys societies as it’s now destroying ours.

            • Henry Filth 5.1.1.1.2.1

              Having looked at Islamic finance and traditional Western finance, the difference deems to be that in the West, you pay for the use of money to buy an asset, but in the Islamic model you pay for the use of the asset which the money buys.

              I’m curious as to whether you see a substantive difference between the two models?

              • Draco T Bastard

                No, I don’t see any difference. The Islamic model seems to be a way to charge interest without calling it interest so as to get around their ban on usury.

            • Mike S 5.1.1.1.2.2

              Yep. Making money from money is a blight on our entire financial and economic system. Money, like the banks that create it, should be simply a tool which we use to help facilitate trade.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Tax avoidance is a peripheral issue. Rule by an oligarchic elite is the core issue. Notably, the Guardian was deadset against a Corbyn victory.

    • tinfoilhat 6.1

      Agreed – I also thought the Guardian’s position on Corbyn was astounding.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        But perfectly understandable when you see then as just another sector of the elite establishment.

  7. Nick 7

    This tax money doesn’t just disappear if not paid to the government. It still exists in the economy for the public good. It’s nonsense to claim only governments can spend money for the public good.

    • pat 7.1

      except we know that much of it does not join the churn of the real economy….it is tied up in property bubbles, collectables and various havens.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/14/us-corporations-14-trillion-hidden-tax-havens-oxfam

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      It still exists in the economy for the public good.

      No it doesn’t. It’s locked a way it vaults and banks in offshore accounts doing nothing.

      It’s nonsense to claim only governments can spend money for the public good.

      And it’s nonsense to claim that the rich do anything for the pubic good.

      Money flows up – and it doesn’t come down again.

      • Henry Filth 7.2.1

        “No it doesn’t. It’s locked a way it vaults and banks in offshore accounts doing nothing.”

        Do you seriously, honestly, believe that?

        I would be extremely surprised if the British pounds and the Euros in my Bank account in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg were merely sitting as banknotes in a bank vault in Luxembourg.

        Surprised? I would be horrified!

    • Lloyd 7.3

      Nick, if the capital is taken out of our economy and hidden in a trust in some tropical island, and then used for holidays on that island, can you please tell me how the public good of New Zealand is helped? Tax avoidance by tax havens would appear to make your argument a nonsense.
      Capital relocation from the wealthy to the poor not involving governments is theoretically possible, but please give me more than two examples where it has been large enough to make a real change in society.
      If you look at an economy where the rich are taxed effectively you are probably looking at a booming economy.

      • Henry Filth 7.3.1

        The trick, Lloyd, is that while the money is hidden on that tropical island, it’s not simply used to pay for the owners occasional holidays on the island.

        It gets recycled into various forms of investment. I suspect that you know this, and are being deliberately disingenuous. . .

  8. Drowsy M. Kram 8

    When National replaced the 5th Labour Government they re-jigged tax rates, and I’ve read that these new tax rates disproportionately favoured the wealthy.

    Now we are learning that avoiding paying a FAIR SHARE of tax is something of a preoccupation for many relatively wealthy NZ citizens. Meanwhile, Government debt skyrockets and public services make do with dwindling resources.

    Is the combination of (1) tax cuts for the wealthy, and (2) a tax system that supports ‘legal’ tax avoidance, an example of the Government fostering double-dipping behaviour by its richest supporters? Welfare fraud in NZ is a disgrace – bloody bludgers.

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