“Tax us now” to reduce wealth inequality, say global millionaires

More than 100 millionaires say the current tax system is “not fair” and that increased wealth tax would help resolve inequalities dramatically exacerbated by the health crisis in Covid

Millionaires from around the world have signed an open letter urging governments to tax them at higher rates.

The letter was published online on Wednesday, in the middle of Davos, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which is being held practically this year.

The signatories of the letter, which was the result of a joint initiative by the pro-inequality groups Patriotic Millionaires, Millionaires for Humanity and TaxMeNow, said the current tax system was “not fair”.

“Most of us can say that even though the world has gone through an enormous amount of suffering in the last two years, we have actually seen our wealth increase during the pandemic – but few if any of us can honestly say that we pay our fair share in taxes . ”

“The world – every country in it – must demand that the rich pay their fair share,” wrote millionaires from the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway and Iran.

This comes when Oxfam on Wednesday released a report describing how the pandemic has exacerbated inequality in prosperity around the world. According to the report, the unique circumstances surrounding the pandemic have driven another 160 million people into poverty, while the world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes.

>> The world’s 10 richest men doubled their fortunes during the pandemic, reports Oxfam

Addressing inequalities “Wealth only continues to be concentrated now in the hands of a few, and then it leads to deeper societal problems,” British signatory Gemma McGough, an entrepreneur and member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, told FRANCE 24.

An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s richest would raise $ 2.52 trillion a year, according to analysis by Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and Patriotic Millionaires, with a graduated tax structure of 2% wealth tax over $ 5 million; 3% on assets over $ 50 million; 5% on assets over $ 1 billion.

It estimated that the funds would be sufficient to produce enough vaccines for the whole world and provide universal health care and social protection for all the 3.6 billion citizens of low- and lower-income countries, among others.

“If we do not address the enormous inequalities and the power and wealth of billionaires and millionaires, we can not solve climate change. [or make progress on]the feminist movement or the human rights movement. It is in everyone’s interest to push for a completely different future, says Jenny Ricks, Global Convenorat the Fight Inequality Alliance to FRANCE 24.

McGough added, “99% of people in the world saw their income fall during the pandemic and the cost of living increased. If you are in 1%, then you look at your own situation and see that it is not the same thing – it is not right. It is not fair. We know we are in a position to shoulder more of the burden. “

Paying attention to the cause Research from Credit Suisse found that the global number of millionaires rose to 56.1 million by 2020, an increase of 5.1 million in one year.

While only 100 millionaires signed the open letter, signatory Djaffar Shalchi, founder of Millionaires for Humanity, told Jowharthat it was a way to counter the story that taxing the rich hurts business development and damages the economy. “Millionaires have a unique role to play in advocating for wealth tax,” he said. “We want politicians to understand that not all millionaires agree with the policy of lowering taxes for the rich.”

This is the third letter of its kind sent by the group, and high-profile signatories include Abigail Disney, niece of founder Walt Disney, and Nick Hanauer, who was an early investor in Amazon.

In a Twitter video, Disney talked about the Davos conference, where invitees usually include business leaders, senior politicians and billionaires. This year, the theme of the conference is “Working Together to Restore Trust”.

“I have been to Davos. It took me out. The idea that so many billionaires have to gather in a small, small place that ordinary people can not get into to discuss things does not create trust, says Disney.

Releasing the letter at the same time as the conference is an important way to raise awareness and stimulate the discussion about wealth tax, Ricks said. “It is not 1% in Davos who have received the answers to the inequality crisis, it is the people who are facing these inequalities,” she told FRANCE 24.

A Growing Movement The UK branch of Patriotic Millionaires started with just four members in 2020, including McGough and screenwriter Richard Curtis. Now the membership grows every month and to different kinds of riches, from those who have inherited money to those who have made their own.

Interest in the concept of wealth tax is also growing among the non-wealthy. Fight Inequality Alliance, which fights against various forms of inequality, now has 50 member organizations worldwide. “We have a very varied membership with young people, women’s groups, trade unions, informal workers, environmentalists, human rights defenders. There is a growing constituency of people who understand that the situation is out of control and change is urgent, says Ricks.

But for every tax activist, the question remains; How interested are people in taxes? The image of tax is somewhat negative, complicated and inaccessible “, says Carla Hoppe, founder of Rethink Tax, a tax policy and education organization in the UK. In this context, it is crucial to increase awareness and interest in how and why we are taxed. “We need a better discussion on how to fix the tax system, as it is not appropriate for the purpose,” she told FRANCE 24.

Hoppe would ultimately like to see governments introduce methods to give voters more influence over how they are taxed. She is skeptical about whether wealth tax alone will provide a comprehensive solution to wealth inequality, even if it is implemented.

“What causes inequality in wealth tends to be capital assets, such as real estate and companies, that effectively protect their owners from economic shocks. A wealth tax could go a long way to reducing inequality, but it depends a lot on whether it captures these assets in its mission. , and there are other reforms of current taxes that could be implemented more easily. “

Others have more hope. “Historically, when there have been major pandemics and major shocks to society, such as after World War II and after the financial crisis of 2008, that is when governments have levied wealth taxes,” Ricks said.

In 2021, the pandemic prompted the Argentine government to impose a one-time wealth tax on citizens with assets worth more than 200 million pesos (1.7 million euros), bringing in the equivalent of $ 2.4 billion to invest in Covid relief efforts. “It is at these moments in history that governments can be forced to impose wealth taxes,” Ricks said.

For political leaders in Davos, the open letter provided a more direct warning. “History paints a rather gloomy picture of what the playoffs in extremely unequal societies look like,” they wrote. “It’s treasures or pitchforks.”

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