Why do we forget that paying our tax is part of the social contract?
‘It’s time to pay the tax man’ is the header of a recent email from my accountant. ‘Protect Yourself From ‘The Tax Man' is the subject of another. The tax man is portrayed as a nefarious figure, akin perhaps tio the the Grim Reaper, and why not? Since, as the saying goes, ‘only 2 things in life are certain – death and taxes’ with the obvious implication being that both are bad and to be avoided as much as possible!
Why do we forget that paying our tax is part of the social contract? That this money is used in part to pay the salaries of the teachers who educate our children; the firefighters who risk their lives to save our own; the refuse collectors who keep our streets clean; for our National Health Service?
Perhaps this negative bias toward taxation helps to explain our incredible tolerance towards tax evaders; sure, Richard Branson is a tax exile but he’s still a national hero, right?
It may also help to explain why the vast majority of our population have no serious qualms about continuing to support businesses known to avoid paying corporation tax (thus in most cases adding no real value to British society beyond a lot of minimum wage jobs).
As one of the founding members of Partners for Progress – the U.K. arm of the Patriotic Millionaires, I believe that it is time to change the dialogue around taxation in the U.K. and that it is way past time to reset the expectations upon those most able to pay. Those, like myself, lucky enough to make up the 1%.
A political and economic overhaul is needed
As in nearly every country on earth, the UK is in desperate need of a political and economic overhaul if it is to address our crisis in economic inequality:
- arrest the erosion of our democrac
- ensure a just economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic
- facilitate the transition to the green economy vital for the U.K. to play its part in addressing the climate crisis
For over a decade we have borne witness, in the U.K., to an increase in poverty and deprivation; to the degradation of the basic human rights of so many of our citizens and to the accelerated effects of the climate crisis at home but far worse overseas.
And all this suffering set against a backdrop of an unprecedented increase of the wealth of the lucky few.
In 2020 alone, the wealth of the people featured on the Times Rich List increased by 22% to nearly £600 billion.
It's time for change
We now live in a country where 4.3 million children live in poverty, while we have 171 billionaires. A country in which one in twelve of all households were experiencing food insecurity even before the pandemic, while during the pandemic, the wealth of our billionaires increased by an incredible £290 million per day!
I am a millionaire, not a billionaire, but I can confirm that similar phenomena of significant wealth increase during the pandemic exists further down the food chain. The fact is that we are not all in this together and since the advent of capitalism we never were.
It's time for change. It’s time that those benefitting most from our economic system be the ones putting the most back in, that the revenue raised from millionaires, billionaires, and corporations make up a significantly larger proportion of tax receipts.
It’s time that every citizen, irrespective of class, gender, ability, race, or ethnicity, should enjoy political power equal to that enjoyed by the wealthy.
And it’s time that #IPaidMyTaxes is seen as a badge of honour.
About the author
'Join me at this year’s Salt Conference to learn more about the scale of inequality in the U.K. the importance of progression taxation on the wealthy to raise the funds needed to build a better future and my perspective on why the wealthy need to join the fight for a more stable and inclusive economy'.