In our post second world-war society, the rise of inequality has become extreme. In the US, inequality has now reached the level it had just before the great depression of 1929. This generates so much tension that one would expect, and easily understand, massive social unrest among the poorest of our citizens. But what do we see instead? Our financial elites eager to attract players into the illegal game of tax evasion.
For the human brain, being rich is a relative measure. If people around you are richer, you will feel a taste of failure. So whether you have incomes that allow for reasonable savings or are ultra rich, and surrounded by other ultra rich, tax evasion is there for you. Nobody likes to pay taxes. The money goes away and then what?
But the world around us gives a very clear picture of the value of taxes. Countries with relatively efficient tax collection, in North America and Europe, are able to offer security, health, education, transportation, knowledge and welfare to their members.
All together, inhabitants of rich countries, we enjoy the benefits of paid taxes. Following Stephen King, we should be happy to pay taxes, for those who live in countries with inefficient tax collection are in dire state (except in tax havens of course, which live on our taxes).
However, there is not a single country in the world that seems decided to seriously fight tax evasion and tax havens. Despite all promises. Nothing. Governments are all afraid that ultra richs may fly abroad. Or it’s just corruption. In the end, the result is there, clearer and stronger every day: tax evasion becomes so frequent that it almost looks legal. If everybody does it, why not you? A single tax evasion does not kill anybody (at least directly) and there will be no visible effect — except for you. Even better, if your savings exceed the modest amount of 1 million dollars, you’ll find well established and supposedly highly respectable companies, eager to help you evade taxes, for a reasonable cost. Safely. Secrecy is their specialty. Or so they thought.
As numerous medias have now shown, HSBC bank, with offices in Swiss and headquarters in England, has been actively offering convenient tax evasion mechanisms to its richest clients, allowing more than 200 billions dollars of money to escape taxes in haven. In less than 5 months. And it’s just HSBC !
After having wrecked international economies with toxic financial products, a bank has again been acting against the common good. Against the national states that saved them. And this just looks OK. Play again?
Clients include criminal weapon or drug retailers, blood diamond traders but also sport stars, CEOs, actors, comic artists. Essentially anybody having big money. Greediness has no frontier. It’s within us. All. With anger, and sexual desire. It’s biological. Yet, for the best, we have all decided to severely punish violence, rapes and sexual harassment. Why should the banks that actively support tax evasion and tax havens be spared?
As another recent financial leak showed, governments of tax havens are happy to offer similar services to companies. Big companies. Amazon, Heinz, Pepsi, Ikea, Deutsche Bank, Apple. A company that made 18 billion dollars of benefits in six months has been escaping taxes after negotiating special tax rulings with Luxembourg, a European tax haven. Legally ! Pleading for his country, the Luxembourg’s Finance Minister, Pierre Gramegna, asserted that issuing such tax rulings is a traditional activity of the Grand Duché.
Here we are. Despites the encouragements of OECD, the power of money paralyzes our governments. But there is a way to move forward. To force them into action. And this power is… money. Ours ! The power of all lucid taxpayers. The power of the crowd.
Imagine that an existing body, political party or NGO, that still believes in social progress, opens a crowdfunding website in the spirit of Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The project? Dismantling all tax havens in the reach of the targeted governments. The project is clearly described on the web page, how it can be achieved by governments, conditions that define when each target is reached. Modern economists have defined the targets. Programmers have set up the web site. A well thought design and crypto-hackers have made it resilient to attacks. Everything is there.
To subscribe, you must commit yourself to retain 50% of the taxes you intended to pay to your government in a blocked account you will create, on your own. You enter the amount of money this represents on the web site. This is it.
The web sites then tracks the amount of money that could independently be blocked by all subscribers. If after one year, more than 3 millions people, and more than 4 billions dollars of taxes are identified, the signal is given. Subscribers must act as they committed themselves to do and block the money. It will then be released incrementally, when each target described on the project web site is reached by governments.
Can you imagine a government acting efficiently against millions of its own citizens? Sueing them for money that is genuinely just blocked for the good of all?
I don’t. But I can imagine a continent free of tax evasion. Able to contribute more actively to the progress of education, medicine, science, renewable energies, and to the welfare of its citizens. A continent that paves the way for others, making a first step towards less inequality, towards the coming great transition, towards a better future for us. All.