Feeds

French letter shock: Tax us more, demand rich people

Well not specifically us, or we could just send a cheque

Boost IT visibility and business value

Comment So rich French people have written a letter demanding that they be taxed more. The text (fortunately in English) is here.

The missive began:

We, chairmen of companies and business leaders, business men and women, finance professionals or wealthy citizens, call for an exceptional levy that would target France's richest taxpayers...

All very jolly and public-spirited you might think, but applying a little bit of economic theory reveals that they're somewhere along the "speaking with forked tongues" to "lying toads" continuum.

That bit of economics is the concept of "revealed preferences": translated out of the jargon it just means don't look at what people say, look at what they do. For example, Liliane Bettencourt, the L'Oreal heiress, is one signatory calling for higher taxes on herself: it's also been widely reported that she has received tax refunds under French "fiscal shield" provisions intended to limit taxes on the wealthy to 50 per cent. Madame, if you really want to pay higher taxes, just don't cash those cheques.

We see the same sort of call everywhere of course. All sorts of people call for higher taxes: it's just that very few actually pay higher amounts of money. We can see this in both the UK and US.

The US has an account, "Gifts to the United States", specifically for charitable-minded citizens. Send them a cheque, they'll cash it and spend the money on government. Last time I checked, the figures they received were $2,671,628.40. Roughly speaking, 1 cent per head of population. OK, so, yes, taxes were too low in the US that year. By exactly that amount.

The UK numbers aren't even that good. In the same year only five Brits sent in cheques to the Treasury and four of those people were deceased. No, the fifth was not Polly Toynbee, despite the impression one might get from her columns (well, I don't know it wasn't her but I'm sure she would have urged the rest of us to do the same if it were).

An FOI request revealed that from 2002 to 2009 actual living people contributed £7,349.90 to the Treasury, over and above their legally due taxation. No, not each or per year... but in total.

So while we get all sorts of rhetoric from all sorts of people arguing that taxes should be higher, almost no one seems to think that it's their own taxes that should be higher. Even when we get these rich people insisting that they'd be quite happy to pay higher taxes, we know that this isn't really true. For if rich people wanted to pay higher taxes then rich people would already be paying higher taxes. They ain't so they don't.

Of course, we could say that rich individuals don't want to pay more but they'd be happy enough to do so if every rich person had to. Which might even be true but that's not being public-spirited that's just being mean: everyone's got to suffer if I have to.

The correct reaction to this French letter (fnarr, fnarr) is simply to ask, politely, for those little thank-you letters the French Treasury has been sending the signatories noting their previous public-spirited additions to the public finances. If they cannot be produced because they do not exist, then we can reject the hypothesis that they really do wish to pay higher taxes: for if they really did, they would have already done so. ®

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.