How outrageous is this story?
Just days after International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde lectured Greek people to pay their taxes or not expect any sympathy from the rest of the world, the British Guardian revealed that her salary of US$467,940 a year, plus US$83,760 in additional allowances, is tax-free. What a bloody hypocrite.
Like top United Nations officials and the Queen of England, the IMF chief enjoys tax-free status.
Queen Elizabeth II of England (once judged the world’s richest woman — that crown now held by Gina Rinehart) agreed to voluntarily pay some income and capital gains tax for the first time in 1992. But she only did this as a PR stunt to arrest her declining popularity with her subjects.
The rich in every country have the means to minimise the taxes they pay. The late Australian media mogul Kerry Packer was infamous for telling a parliamentary inquiry in 1991: “Now of course I am minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn’t minimize their tax, they want their heads read because as a government I can tell you you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra.”
This is an attitude embedded in corporate culture.
Last year, the Australian Financial Review said billionaire mining tycoon Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest “has never signed a corporate income tax cheque for any of the listed companies he has run in the past 16 years”.
BHP paid just $6.4 billion in income tax on $67.9 billion in revenue — just 9.4% — in the financial year to June last year. Other big companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google paid a fraction of the 24% of gross profits paid by the 925 biggest companies in Australia. Small businesses paid an average of 40%.
To say the least, it is more than a bit rich for wealthy people with tax-free status or well-paid tax avoidance lawyers and accountants to lecture Greeks about paying tax.
But it is true that one contributing factor to the Greek sovereign debt, as Stathis Kouvelakis explained in his article “The Greek Cauldron” in New Left Review, is that Greece’s rich pay little tax (if any).
Not only that, but a series of conservative governments since the 1950s offered exemption from taxes and special access to public-sector jobs to a privileged client base of small business operators and professionals.
The IMF and other banks just want to get things back to what they consider “normal” for capitalism: where the richer get richer and avoid taxes, while the rest work harder and pay higher taxes.
It may be “normal” in their eyes, but Green Left Weekly calls it a crime. Tax the rich or better still get rid of the rich altogether and build a new society based on shared and renewable resources.
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