Tax dodgers and bloody hypocrites

IMF boss Christine Lagarde.

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, it was revealed by the British Guardian 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 of England (once judged the world’s richest woman – that crown is now being held by Gina Rinehart) agreed to voluntarily pay some income and capital gains tax for the first time ever in 1992 but 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 minimizing 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.”

That’s an attitude chronically embedded in corporate culture.

Last year, the Australian Financial Review reported that 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 2011. Other big companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google paid a fraction of the 24% of gross profits paid by the 925 biggest companies in Australia while small businesses paid an average of 40%. Most workers in Australia pay a overall tax rate of between 26-34% on their incomes before paying more in indirect taxes like GST.

To say the least it is more than a bit rich for rich people with tax-free status or well-paid tax avoidance lawyers and accountants to lecture Greeks about paying tax bit is true that one contributing factor to the Greek sovereign debt is, as Stathis Kouvelakis explained in his article “The Greek Cauldron” in New Left Review, is that not only did the rich pay little tax (if any) but that a series of conservative governments since the 1950s had 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!

Well it may be “normal” in their eyes, but we in Green Left Weekly call 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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