Multinational corporations are using tax havens to avoid paying tax and the filthy rich are getting richer. Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, billionaire capers – what’s new? This stuff has been going on for yonks.
But if there is one important point that the Paradise Papers should cement in the public mind, it is that ripping off the public is not just something a few rich “bad apples” are guilty of.
The Tax Justice Network estimates that multinational corporations and rich individuals avoid paying approximately US$700 billion a year in tax through tax havens – and this is just a fraction of the total amount the rich are ripping off from the rest of us.
Before the rich go to their accountants with the challenge of paying as little tax as possible on their loot, they have to first acquire the loot. Workers have to be screwed over, customers have to be cheated and public assets have to be plundered, whether through privatisation, public-private partnerships or direct public subsidies.
Tax evasion and minimisation are only the secondary round of plundering the public, even if the scale of it is shocking enough for most people.
Former Fairfax investigative journalist Michael West (retrenched alongside many other journalists last year) argued on his blog that the mainstream media reports on the Paradise Papers had "once again missed the forest for the trees”.
Media focus had been on the celebrities outed in this latest leak, such as the Queen of England and Michael Hutchence.
Meanwhile, leading banks and top accounting firms such as KPMG, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which devised the tax-dodging schemes, get away scot-free with barely a mention.
West has a point.
But the even bigger issue is that all this is just standard practice under capitalism. The problem is not just a few “bad apples” (whether high-profile celebrities or top accounting firms) but the entire corrupt system.
The challenge we face is that it is not enough to simply expose how chronically piratical this system is, how deadly it is for so many in the world and how disastrous it is for the precious environment – we need to change it.
Green Left Weekly is committed to system change and we need your ongoing help to keep fighting in a word stacked to the advantage of the rich and the powerful.
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