More than one hundred of the world’s wealthiest people from across eight countries are urging their fellow millionaires and billionaires to pay more in taxes.
In an open letter published on millionairesagainstpitchforks.com, 121 billionaires – including former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, founder of TED Chris Anderson, and several entrepreneurs, investors, and two members of the Disney family - argued that rich people had a significant role to play in reducing wealth inequality and tax evasion.
“We urge you to step forward now – before it’s too late – to demand higher and fairer taxes on millionaires and billionaires within your own countries and to help prevent individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion through international tax reform efforts,” the letter read.
Related story: The rich should get ready for Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax
“We make this request as members of the most privileged class of human beings ever to walk the earth.”
The letter was published ahead of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland this week
There are more billionaires than ever on earth, and they control more wealth than ever, the letter said. According to Oxfam’s latest report, the world’s 2,153 billionaires own more wealth than 4.6 billion people – which is more than the population of 10 of the world’s most populous countries, such as China, India and the US – combined.
Oxfam has long been calling for the world’s wealthiest to be taxed more and for tax avoidance of major corporations to be cracked down on.
Tensions caused by inequality has depleted social trust, and a “pervasive sense of unfairness are diminishing basic social cohesion,” the letter said, with the consequence being greater tension between countries.
“The resulting dynamics guarantee that the global community will fail to adequately respond to the looming climate catastrophe.
“This will be disastrous for everyone, including millionaires and billionaires. It is time for us to act.”
Philanthropy won’t be enough, these billionaires argued, a sentiment echoed by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman: higher taxes is the answer, and those who don’t think pose a threat to both the climate and to democracy.
“Taxes are the best and only appropriate way to ensure adequate investment in the things our societies need,” the letter said.
“Those seeking to avoid their tax responsibilities are often the same ones manipulating governments and democratic processes around the world for their own gain.”
Tax avoidance and evasion among the world’s wealthiest corporations and individuals have reached “epidemic” levels, with research showing that nearly 10 per cent of the world’s GDP is hidden in tax havens.
“To be clear, every solution to this global crisis requires higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires like us.” the letter said.
Not the first letter of its kind
In June last year, 19 of America’s high-profile ultra-millionaires and billionaires – including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Hungarian-American investor George Soros, and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger’s eldest daughter Molly Munger – co-signed an open letter that was published in the New York Times asking the 2020 US presidential candidates to support a wealth tax.
“The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans,” the letter read.
“A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic.”
US Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren shares a similar view, arguing that a “small” tax of 2 per ent on every dollar of assets over US $50 million would bring in US $4 trillion for America.
Other prominent voices have also called for higher taxes on the rich, with Bill Gates stating late last year that he “wouldn’t be against” a tax on the ultra-wealthy, though he was doubtful about whether it would actually happen.
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