OPINION

Time to tax the rich

Ordinary people are once again likely to have their taxes increased disproportionately.

For example, road tax is a minor expense for the wealthy but is a huge burden for the poor. The poorest people generally have the oldest cars and are therefore the most heavily taxed, not just proportionately but absolutely. Furthermore, poor people generally use their cars far less than those who are better off so the cost per kilometer becomes far higher again. What?s more, those who leave their cars at home and use public transport still have to pay the same road tax. The government is now proposing to further increase road tax, along with increases in VAT and other taxes that will hurt the poorest people far more than the wealthy. Charging road tax per kilometer is not immediately practical so a further increase in fuel tax, whilst painful for all, would surely be fairer to society than a further increase in road tax?

Also, how about reducing road tax and at the same time introducing a new annual tax based upon the value of a car? A tax of, say, 5 percent of the total value of all cars on the road in the country would make a significant contribution towards the State?s financial needs and the proceeds would far outweigh the loss resulting from a reduction of, say, 20 percent in road taxes. That way the wealthier would start to contribute a more reasonable share towards the nation?s financial needs.

Once again, raising more money through property tax also seems to be high on the government?s agenda. My open letter to the prime minister, published on April 16, suggested that taxing land and buildings without taxing other assets is intrinsically unfair but nobody chose to follow up my comments. Perhaps that?s because, according to a Kathimerini report last week, ?government data show that about 150,000 taxpayers in the country own assets worth more than 400,000 euros?. The obvious implication is that such a move would only affect a relatively small number of wealthy people. However, the same article stated, ?? the ministry is looking into dropping this cut-off mark to 300,000 euros?. That would bring many thousands of others into the property tax net.

What?s more, the very simple step of substantially increasing objective values, as has previously been proposed, or any further reduction in the threshold, could affect hundreds of thousands of people who can certainly not be described as wealthy. These taxes would be demanded from people who may well not have sufficient income or cash reserves to pay them. Loans against property apparently cannot be offset for the purposes of the property tax. What, then, of the family that has taken on substantial loans to buy the house they live in? Where will they find the cash to pay the property tax?

Surely a wealth tax would be much fairer than a tax limited to land and buildings? Why should those with cash assets, whether in Greece or elsewhere, or with portfolios of stocks, shares or other investments not be taxed in exactly the same way? Taxes on assets would then be much more fairly spread between rich and ordinary citizens.

Most of us would very much like to see the wealthy contributing their fair share towards solving the country?s financial problems. However, the Government will surely not propose such changes because they and their friends would have to suffer a drop in living standards in a similar way to the rest of us. A focal point is desperately needed to challenge the government. The ?Won?t Pay? movement has gone very quiet recently and their methods were not acceptable to most of us. The ?Indignant? movement demonstrates the depth of feeling but lacks a voice. Quoting again from Kathimerini, this time from Comment on Friday, ?This exasperation is fueled by the absence of channels through which people can express their concerns?.

Is anyone willing and able to stand up, to bring together the views of the ordinary people, and to take on the politicians? The ?Indignant? people are trying but they need leaders. We wish them success.

Chris Feather, Nea Makri