Today I tried to call the Inland Revenue, I had to go through a long automated menu system and after twenty minutes, the line simply went dead, and I pay about twenty percent tax.
By contrast Google, who are believed pay something in the region of three percent tax have had twenty meetings with the Inland Revenue and Government Ministers in the last few weeks. I suspect that if I were to ask for such high level meetings, (if I could even get through in the first place) the response would not be a positive one. After all I’m just an ordinary citizen and therefore not worthy of the common curtesy of being able to speak to a human being.
The argument that the Government make for this is that they believe in low tax rates, but the questions remains, low tax rates for who? It seems that they genuinely believe in low tax rates for rich multinational corporations, but not for ordinary working people.
I wrote recently that the top 62 people in the world control as much wealth as 3.2 billion of the world’s population and I quoted Matthew Paris, the ex Thatcherite member of parliament, who used the headline, “Capitalism is Failing” in his recent Saturday Times article.
One of the creeds of the Thatcherite type of capitalism is that business has to be a-moral, that company directors have a legal duty to their shareholders to maximize profits but no legal duty to be fair, or to contribute to the greater good of society.
I struggle to pay my tax bill, but I don’t mind because I have benefited from the National Heath Service and from a state funded education. I actually want to make my fair contribution for the common good.
Whilst it is progress that Google is now paying anything at all, the issue here is exactly the same as the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor. I once worked for a multinational accountancy firm that counted among it’s clients one of the richest families in this country. I’m no tax expert but they must have paid a lot of accountancy bills so I’m guessing that if you can afford to pay large bills for tax specialists, then you must be saving large amounts on your tax bills. So again the rich pay less than the poor even with higher rate tax bands.
When asked about paying taxes to the Roman authorities, Jesus asked, “Whose portrait is on the coin?” It was a portrait of the Roman Emperor. His reply was, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperors, and to God’s the things that are God’s.” He thus side stepped the trap that had been laid for him avoiding charges of encouraging insurrection.
But since Jesus was in effect saying honor your obligations to the state, it seems unfortunate that the argument for fabulously wealthy multinational for companies paying lower rates of tax than ordinary working people excuses them from this obligation.
One contributor to the B.B.C. program question time said this today: “Where is the social responsibility? If this is the new shiny capitalism, then give me the old capitalism. Where are the Cadbury’s and the Rowntree’s of today?” The Cadburys’ and the Rowntree’s were both convinced Christians, they had a strong sense of social responsibility and tried to improve the lives of their workers, partly because they believed that they would be judged on how they used their wealth for the common good by a higher authority than Inland Revenue or the Government.
But the question that the government must answer to the people remains this: Do they believe that it is right that the super rich (including multinational companies) should pay a fraction of the tax that ordinary working people pay? At the moment, because they argue that we need low tax rates to attract these companies, their answer is yes.
The question for the people is how long are they prepared to sanction a Government (of any political color) that not only gives that answer, but proudly and unrepentantly lives by it.
Jesus said, Give to the emperor the things are are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.
I pay my taxes gladly because I believe in the goodness of the state providing services for the people. But I expect that multinationals be required to do the same. I think that I am echoing the sentiments of the majority of the public and I suspect that any polititains would be wise to heed the voice of those who elect them. But they would also be wise to remember that they will be judged by a higher authority, and so would the chief executives of Google and other companies like them.