It is one of the least-used sentences in the English language: I want to pay more tax.
That’s how I feel after analysing Mitt Romney’s financials.
The Republican Presidential Nominee – worth an estimated $250 million – has finally released his tax returns for the past two years. From an income of $13.7 million in 2011, he paid $1.94 million: a tax rate of 14.1 per cent.
Image via Hypernet.com.
This is lower than the rate paid by the average firefighter.
Anyone who thinks this is fair has rocks in their head.
In an eviscerating piece for the Daily Beast earlier this year, entitled Tax Me, For F@#$’s Sake! the multi-millionaire writer Stephen King says most rich folk would, “rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing Disco Inferno than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar”.
(In the interests of gender equality I would like to add the image of rich women setting their fannies on fire, to the strains of Bruce Springsteen.)
This is not about the politics of envy; it is about paying your fair share. Billionaire Warren Buffett famously complained about paying less tax than his secretary, due to loopholes created by George W. Bush.
This prompted President Obama’s doomed bid to pass legislation making tax codes fairer.
Perhaps we should consider similar laws here.
“The income tax system is absurdly inequitable when it comes to taxing the mega-rich, because most of their income comes from investment,” ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons recently told News Ltd..
My stomach churns as I recall the statement by the late Kerry Packer at a Senate Inquiry: “Of course I’m minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn’t minimise 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!”
I don’t like to write ill of the dead.
But I’m sure bilious billionaires could spare a few shekels for books for a school library, or medicine for a rural hospital.
Instead, the wicked witch of the west tells us to get out of the pub and work harder – for as little as $2 a day.
I tend to agree with Richard Glover’s contention that Ms. Rinehart is a Marxist masquerading as a billionaire to add fuel to the proletariat fire.
They seem to think the tax taken goes into a big Black Hole.
Instead, it is spent on disability services, roads, public transport, defence, police, fire stations – stuff we actually need.
The people who evade tax are the same ones who bleat about unflued heating in public schools and waiting lists for elective surgery. There’s a special place in hell for those who avoid tax because, “the gummint wastes it, anyway”.
This federal government could be accused of misspending money through poorly crafted policies and inefficiencies, but the majority of funds get to where they’re needed.
Personally, I think more should be spent on the disabled and less on defence; you might think the opposite … so … my tax payment for 2011/12 can go towards the NDIS, and yours to the military.
In the words of philosopher Alain de Botton, “Paying tax should be framed as a glorious civic duty worthy of gratitude – not a punishment for making money”.
If we adopted this attitude, we wouldn’t have a $19 trillion global black market codenamed System D.
According to the OECD, half the world’s working population is employed in the shadow economy; it will be two-thirds by 2020.
It’s not just arms dealers.
These are the jewellery sellers at flea markets; the cash-in-hand babysitters; and the coffee shops displaying the sign, “No credit cards”.
I’m as guilty as anyone of doing the odd cash transaction. Sometimes, there’s no choice. I’ve had stand-up fights with tradesmen, so they put my payment on the books – I don’t want to rob the kids at the lovely little primary school around the corner.
Mitt Romney makes a big deal of his $4 million charity donations.
But as Stephen King, left, writes, “What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility… for the care of (the nation’s) sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts”.
So what can the Australian government do?
Economists repeat their mantra of “Raise the G.S.T” and taxing goods and services casts a wide net, collecting coin from those who reduce their taxable income.
But raising the G.S.T. – or broadening it to include fresh food – would hurt those who could least afford it.
We should consider a wealth tax.
This is being proposed by Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, at the Liberal Democrat’s annual conference.
“It’s just wrong that people on low and middle incomes who work hard and play by the rules are taxed so much while Russian oligarchs pay the same council tax as some people do on a family home,” he says.
As we stare down the barrel of a slowdown in China, the rich should do reverse Oliver Twist and say, “Please, can I give some more.”
MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER
*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.