Friday, November 27, 2009

The rich pay too much tax me arse!! Just look at the facts

Below is a piece from Eoin Ó Broin that appeared in this weeks An Phoblacht. It provides useful information on how we can answer the government claim that the rich cannot afford to be taxed anymore and are already paying more than there fair share.

I strongly believe the information here and the information contained on the TASC website, mentioned below, is the ammunition we need to counter the propaganda of the ruling elite in this country. In order to convince people we are capable of running this country we need to convince them we know our stuff, especially in relation to economic matters. Therefore it is vital for republicans to continue to educate ourselves on economic matters and the TASC site and Michael Taft's notes from the front are good places to start.


FINANCE MINISTER Brian Lenihan keeps telling us that high-earners pay enough tax.
In their November pre-Budget outlook, the Government told us that 4% of earners could pay up to 48% of the total income tax take in 2009.

What more proof do we need that the country’s super rich are paying their fair share? Well, as it happens, a lot more.

Why? Because the Government’s figures don’t tell us how much the top 4% earn and whether paying 48% of all income tax take is fair or not.

Fortunately for us, those smart people at TASC have produced a report that tells a lot more about income distribution than the Government would like you to know.

TASC is an independent think-tank dedicated to combating economic inequality and promoting equality. The website is filled with invaluable information.

Their latest report is The HEAP Chart. It provides a detailed analysis of income inequality in the state.

The top 1% of the population own 20% of the state’s wealth. When residential property is not included, this same 1% own 34% of the state’s wealth.

83% of the PAYE workers earn less than €50,000 per year, while 66% earn less than €33,000 per year.

Only 14% of PAYE workers earn more than €50,000 per year, with a tiny 2% earning more than €100,000 per year.

When you consider that 5% of the population own 50% of the state’s wealth, then the Government’s projected income tax returns for 2009 don’t seem so unfair.

What TASC’s HEAP report tells us is even more interesting. While, during the boom, the income of all groups increased, the gap between high and low incomes widened considerably.

In a comparison of income distribution from 1987 to 2005, TASC demonstrate a clear growth in inequality.

In 2006, women’s income was only 86% of men’s. The proportion of women at risk of poverty in 2007 was 19% compared to 15% of men.

The average annual salary for those with no primary or formal education was €13,489 compared to €45,707 per year for college graduates.

More shocking is the fact that 34% of those with no primary or formal education were at risk of poverty compared to only 3% of college graduates.

IN every EU or OECD comparison contained in the TASC report, the 26 Counties was near the bottom of the pile.

We have higher levels of inequality and poverty and lower levels of spending on social protection than almost all of our rich EU or OECD neighbours.

For TASC, the solution to this mess requires greater equality in people’s pre-tax and post-tax income. Guaranteeing minimum incomes, limiting ‘super salaries’, a fairer tax system and investment in education are all required.

So the next time you hear a Government TD tell you that 4% of workers pay 48% of income tax, don’t just sit there, reach for the HEAP Chart and tell them it’s because our society is so unequal.


  1. The most recent OECD report on tax burden was released two days ago.,3343,en_2649_34533_44115887_1_1_1_37427,00.html

    The overall tax-to-GDP ratio in OECD countries was 35.8% in 2007, the latest year for which complete figures are available, unchanged from 2006. In 2005, the tax-to-GDP ratio was 35.7% and in 2004 it was 35.1%.

    For the southern part of the country the tax burden declined to 28.3% (2008) from 30.8% (2007)of GDP.

    Crucially this is the GDP ratio not the GNP ratio.

    GNP is regarded as a better figure for what wealth we make in the south cause of our large MNC sector.

    In 2008 GDP was about EUR 181 Billion
    In 2008 GNP was about Eur 154 billion.

    It would be interesting to see the tax burden against GNP and exclude both the tax we get from the MNCs and the activity they provide.

    While the OECD figure of 28.3% to GDP is low it will of course rise if its against GNP which is the wealth created by Irish owned sources. So the tax burden on Irish people or owned factors is probably higher than the OECD report would indicate.

    But the HEAP report shows that the wealth being created each year is going to the top and actually this has accelerated over the last few years. And its nothing to do with merit or the creativity of the top echelon of Irish society. If these people had invented some new world beating product that made them rich then fair play to them but the only thing they have done is rig the system so that the wealth flows up.

    A taxation does not need to be high a taxation system needs to be fair and meet the requirements of the state.

    Looking at HEAP, and the point Eoin makes about income distribution clearly there is a problem.

    And our below par Irish infrastructure clearly indicates that our tax take is insufficient to allow for the creation of a wealth generating business environment.

  2. Once again, you are not comparing like with like. We do not have a Finnish economy let alone anything like a German economy - name one Irish owned company who can hope to equal Nokia for productive capacity. And Finland isn't managing the collapse that well either!
    If Ireland is to have investment (jobs) then the deal with capital is that we let the rich and MNCs pay little tax. Impose taxes and that investment will dry up and then just leave.
    In any case, this is becoming academic while yesterday's radicals remain stuck on tax and spend economics the tax base in the economy is collapsing as we speak and jobs are going by the hundred by the day. The figure *has* to be based on spend per GNP (anything other is self-deception) and even this figure is likely dated given the scale of the contraction. Plus you have to add in debt repayments which is absent from your figures.
    You need clarity on the fact that imposing higher taxes means you are compelled to move away from the export-dependent growth model in a potentially harsh period of change to a different type of economy. Does SF want that?
    An economist.

  3. No Mr economist I don't agree with your analysis. We can fight for a more equal society and that it was I wish to see. The economic model you promote is the one that created this mess we are in.

    Given the fact you are an ECONOMIST and know everything about how the economy works I'm sure you made a killing in the markets when they crashed. How much did you make please tell us. Or perhaps you aren't that clever after all and didn't see this crash coming.

    If you didn't then why should we listen to you on economics when it is your brand of economics that is leading to families on benefits not getting any christmas bonus, wages being cut, unemployment rising etc etc.

  4. Hi Economist,

    Thanks for your comment. I note you talk about comparing like for like but thats the point I made about the need to consider tax take against GNP rather than GNP.

    As an economist you mention If Ireland is to have investment (jobs) then the deal with capital is that we let the rich and MNCs pay little tax. Impose taxes and that investment will dry up and then just leave.

    what is the relevant elasticity and where are we now in relation to that.

    You also say that:
    "You need clarity on the fact that imposing higher taxes means you are compelled to move away from the export-dependent growth model in a potentially harsh period of change to a different type of economy."

    I think that this is an interesting point and one that might be a typical criticism faced by every party seeking a restructured tax system.

    "Economist", I personally am against high taxes, or tax and spend approaches as you call it which i understand as meaning focus on spending money and not enough focus on the generation of activity. What Iam definitely for though is a tax system that is capable of meeting the needs of the state to generate economic activity and also to distribute wealth. We have neither now. So I am 100% for a functioning tax system. High for the sake of it no wayy, but an adequate is surely required. It should at the least be adequate to our requirements.

    What is your assessment at the moment of the current tax system and do you believe there is a need for adjustents, up or down?

    By the way the GDP in ppp of the souther part of the country and finland were practically the same in 2008. We dont have a finnish economy is true but activity wise they are the same with gdp (with the usual caveat). but finland has about a million more folks. Not to dissimilar.


  5. What I oppose is the idea that Ireland can backtrack to Keynesian pump-priming (borrowing) as a stimulus to growth. Few outside the Labour party are suggesting this however and we all know that they're just talking that talk to win power. Most economists are suggesting that we cut our way out of this and SF are suggesting that we tax our way out. Of all the positions, the latter is the least credible as it isn't even a real stimulus and may actually contract the economy further.
    Can we adjust taxes you ask? It's hard to tell without being a DoF insider but its quite obvious that in the current environment touching PRSI contributions, corporation tax and introducing a wealth tax would be suicidal if you want to retain whatever investment remains. On the other hand, increased income tax (particularly at PAYE level), higher VAT and other stealth taxes would not cause such a flight but would cause significant political unrest. So the Govt is opting for the knive. They are trying to tough it out and whoever gets into power will be forced out of necessity to do the same.
    I don't see much alternative if you remain committed to operating in the current economic 'paradigm' as SF no doubt are.
    As for GDP per capita figures, you cannot compare them on this basis - use GNP instead as it abstracts repatriated profits. Then look at the relative costs - don't fight with misrepresentations it only embarrasses you.

  6. Hi Economist,

    I don't see much alternative if you remain committed to operating in the current economic 'paradigm' as SF no doubt are.

    What alternative paradigm might that party more profitably follow?

    "As for GDP per capita figures, you cannot compare them on this basis - use GNP instead as it abstracts repatriated profits. Then look at the relative costs - don't fight with misrepresentations it only embarrasses you."

    While words of learned length and thund'ring sound,

    Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;

    And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,

    That one small head should carry all he knew."


  7. The rebuts to the Anon Economist are bordering on the ad hominem. This poster seems to be advocating the dreary "trickle down" theory of economics that we been living with for nearly thirty years. This system has only worked because of two factors: cheap money and debt. The debt burden of Irish households has sky-rocketed as it replaces real inflation adjusted wage growth. At the same time, due to various tax induced programs, the real amount of tax paid by high-end wage earners has actually decreased to something in the high twenties.

    Michael Taft at has kindly done the homework and displays the relevant data throughout his posts.

    SF realises that rationalisation of services will have to take place over time. They recognise that successive Irish governments have used the public purse to further their own and their crony's accumulation goals - wether the accumulation process involves capital, power or a combination thereof. What SF, unlike almost every other party and every Neo-Liberal indoctrinated economist wants to do is not to panic; spread the pain around more equitably; and create conditions for future growth that will be more equitable. It policies are a mixture of income producing measures that are targeted at creating stimulus while trying to tackle a grossly mismanaged public purse and balance sheet.

    While the govt and the so-called establishment try to hold the blood sucking vampire squids of the international bond market and their paid lackeys in the rating agencies over our heads in order to foster more trickle down economic policies, I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that we radically need to revamp the financial sector. Once this toxic debt arrow is taken out of the quiver of previaling greed driven economic doctrine, the scope of the crony class becomes irreparably damaged and we as a political economy can move towards saner economics. We need an economics where we produce things poeple need rather than want; that recognises the collateral damage done to the environment and communities; and where the overall aim is for the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Managing an economy so a few can get mega-rich isn't working.

  8. true Tgmac,

    Economist. Apologies for quoting goldsmith at you. I should not have been annoyed by your remark that i was embarrassing myself but sure we are all only human and trying our best.

    Tgmac, your points on revamping the finance sector are well made. I think everyone was disgusted if not shocked to see the shenanigans that AIB were trying to get around the pay caps.


  9. Wasn't having a go at yee J. Just a general comment, like. If anybody gets annoyed too much, it's usually myself.

    What's more to the point, SF's budget proposals and general economic policies over on the SF site give us ample opportunity to discuss the situation with detractors from both the right and left of SF.

    I just need to get the finger out and learn a good bit more about the entire situation with regard to the political economy in light of developing policies. I was critical when SF didn't have at least a progressive stance.