How do you feel about having to pay tax? If, like me, you are the beneficiary of a state education, you might feel obliged. If we assessed our good corporate citizenship culture by whether we pay our taxes, I imagine there is good deal of resentment by those who are PAYE taxpayers, who don’t have much choice. This is especially true when we see others who appear to have choices as to whether to pay. And, what say have we in the money we pay? When it comes to paying back bond holders, expenses for politicians, EU demands and so on, it seems we have very little.
Of course, we must pay for the welfare state; I think most of us would agree on this. But is that the way we become good corporate citizens? There was an interesting survey in 2014 in the UK, which looked at the wealthiest UK based business people who pay negligible or no tax. The survey also then looked at the list of the biggest philanthropic givers in the country. And guess what?! They were, by and large, the same people.
The argument can be made that, if such high net worth people have money and there are legal ways of not handing it over to those they believe may not make the best use of it, would it make sense that they decide who would make the best use of it? Does this make sense, especially if this would allow them to place it more socially or philanthropically themselves. In Ireland, at least our tax does not go to fund a war many of us possibly oppose. What about the idea of conscientious tax objectors?
If governments were run like business and were answerable to their shareholders, there would be restrictions on their spending power above a certain level. The problem really is that elected representatives only represent a minority of us, yet most of us must pay taxes and these are the taxes they spend. And if you look closely at the waste over successive governments in this country, one has to wonder why we don’t challenge it more.
Another way of looking at it is, if you buy shares in a company for example, you would surely take advice from someone with a good track record in money management or at least an attractive proposition for you to garner your interest. What we have is a tax system, in which as PAYE workers, we have no choice but to pay taxes, and these are used by successive governments in ways that no really well run or managed company would allow their money be spent. Is there a better way? Will this debate ever take place? Can we have more of a say in how funding is collected and spent and in the ownership of collective problems?
I wonder if the ideas of lower taxes and the development of crowdfunding in major projects for our own areas or nationally, say like the national children’s hospital, would see more of us cough up more money. Would that result in greater citizenship or greater collective ownership of problems and solutions? How do we get this debate going? Lower taxes for a start might help!