When you talk about taxes, a little bit of please


Talking about taxes is fashionable. The pandemic has caused a large outlay in the form of public aid, a wise option and one that has fortunately enjoyed great consensus. And tax collection has fallen. This situation has made even more evident the serious structural defects that the tax system was dragging on in Spain, both in terms of equity and efficiency. And internationally, the growing holes that globalization creates in an outdated system and the ease with which money is evacuated to tax havens make far-reaching reform imperative.

Despite the enormous importance to our future of the actions to be taken in this field, national political leaders often speak about it with great simplicity and lightness. We risk the future of the Welfare State, whatever we want it to be. So I would ask our leaders a little bit of please. In other words, let us continue talking about the subject, but with transparency, rigor, ambition, firmness, without deception and avoiding neighborhood disputes. In short, exercising with dignity the leadership that we have endowed them at the polls.

Please, a bit of transparency to talk about these issues. Taxes exist primarily to finance public goods and services. The substance of a long-range fiscal policy is to define what we prefer to build together. Do we want a doctor to treat us for free when we are sick? Or, on the contrary, that it is one more service that is consumed by paying a market price? Do we build a common fund so that everyone has a decent pension when working age ends or a minimum salary when there is no work? Or do we encourage individuals to build their own reserved box for when they can no longer generate income? Yes, they are simply asked questions. But it is the responses, well constructed both qualitatively and quantitatively, that define a true policy. And the more (less) of these services, and of higher (lower) quality, we aspire to have, the more (less) taxes we will need to finance them. So, please, tell me how many health professionals, educators, police … aspire to be able to pay with everyone’s money and I will already deduct if I have to pay more or less taxes.

Please, a little more rigorous and less simple. Lowering taxes, at any time or circumstance, is not a policy worthy of the name, as I tried to simplify in the previous paragraph. “It is what the citizens want,” they say without embarrassment to justify this policy. Yes, sometimes we would like to take refuge in our childish selves and think that public services are supported for free. But we adults know well that nothing is free. However, there is a lack of training and tax awareness in our society. So, please, promote tax education in schools. There is ignorance about the utility associated with paying taxes and the consequences of lowering or raising them. And that’s why we buy into the lies about these issues. A few hours on these topics in basic education would contribute to creating a citizenry that is aware of the profits (and futilities) associated with paying taxes. And then, perhaps, leaders would not be tempted to seduce us with such simple and misleading messages.

Yes, we must ask our leaders to, please, don’t fool us. Well, this should be a requirement, you shouldn’t ask for it please. Those who always sell us “lower taxes”, as a panacea and as a means to have a more prosperous society capable of generating more public income, are lying to us. And with premeditation and treachery, because for a long time that solemn nonsense that, by lowering taxes, revenue increases, it was unmasked. By lowering taxes, we have less public income and, consequently, we can provide less or poorer quality public services. As simple as that. And if we also compete with taxes unfairly, the possible benefits of this tax cut would be achieved at the expense of our neighbors.

Please, exercise the leadership to speak of these issues firmly, with conviction. Transformations always generate some losers. The important thing is to make society as a whole progress. Any reform has transition costs. The losers of a reform must be helped and their transition costs minimized. But we need economic reforms, the tax one among others. Propose them to us with conviction, with their benefits and their costs, indicating why the benefits outweigh the costs. But please stop sending us shy probe balloons with ads that are withdrawn at the slightest protest from those (supposedly) harmed by a measure.

Have, please, ambition when presenting your tax policies. When has a situation arisen in which organizations so little suspicious of wanting to dynamite the market such as the IMF, the OECD, the European Commission, the United States Government, the G7! … jointly advocate to close the growing holes that Globalization is creating tax resources around the world? To close tax dens and advance in a tax harmonization that, in addition to cementing those holes, adds justice to both tax systems and free competition between companies, no more arguments or more doctrine are needed. It just takes more ambition in our leaders.

At the national level, we do not need more experts to tell us what sense it makes for us to use taxes to benefit diesel compared to gasoline, or to promote the socially harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption with one of the lowest taxes in our country. environment, or tell us how long to maintain rules that allow unfair competition in inheritance tax, one of the tax figures strictly designed to reduce inequalities (again, even the OECD is scandalized by this!). It takes ambitious leaders, more deeds and fewer words.

Y, please, less slum political disputes. Any sensible document that in recent years has been written proposing economic reforms, from pulpits of all kinds, includes an invitation, almost a plea, for consensus among our main political forces to agree to reforms with a scope greater than that of a legislature. The groups of experts that this Government has assembled include many people who I dare to affirm that they have not voted for Sánchez; and I can say something similar about those that were created under the Government of Rajoy. Enough of throwing these reports in your face; Read them and you will find proposals that may well be supported from different areas of the political space; sit down and build them, for that we have voted for you.

My position is clear: as the devastating effects of this pandemic end, a profound tax reform should come into force without delay. Reform that at the national level should reinforce our deteriorated (after the previous crisis and the current pandemic) Welfare State, which requires an increase in the tax burden, with changes that firmly emphasize reducing our extensive pockets of fraud and eliminate ineffective tax benefits. And, at the international level, in contributing to a strong leadership to carry out the fight against tax dens and tax dumping, also that which occurs within the European Union.

I do not have space to justify the reasons for these necessary policies or to detail them, and I do want to take advantage of it to ask once again for rigor, ambition and firmness from our political leaders to convince us and act. And, please, I ask Fernando Tejero to forgive me for using the sarcasm of his successful phrase to talk about such a serious subject.


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