It should be easy to make the rich cough up more tax in a digital-money economy. Just tell the banks to deduct it.

It should be easy to make the rich cough up more tax

The latest Jonathan Pie video prompted a spurt of creative thinking in This Writer, leading to the conclusion that it should be easy to make the rich cough up more tax.

The clip concludes with Pie telling us that an incoming Labour government won’t be able to do anything useful because “there’s no… money left”.

This is not true. There’s money all over the place – in the hands of the super-rich.

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It isn’t doing them any good – they’re just hoarding it. The best thing that could happen to it is being taxed off of those rich people and used to prevent inflation as a progressive government pumps new money into the economy – where it is needed.

Are we all familiar with the way the UK economy works? The quick version is that the government creates money via the Bank of England, and then invests it in businesses and services according to its priorities. That money then works its way through many pairs of hands until it is taxed back out again (fulfilling the purposes of taxation, which are to prevent inflation and to validate Sterling as the UK’s currency).

In the cases of the super-rich, the system fails because they aren’t paying enough tax. Feel free to differ but in a country that has increasing numbers of billionaires who have salted trillions of pounds in bank accounts around the world but cannot afford to treat sick or injured people in reasonable time because of the cost, I think I have a decent argument.

These rich people insist on hiding their cash in tax avoidance schemes (which are legal). Some may participate in tax evasion (which is not). They all threaten to disappear, taking their cash with them, if a government suggests higher tax rates for them.

But here’s a thing: banking has gone digital. The Tory government only recently tried to legislate to allow itself to spy on pensioners and benefit claimants, in order to work out if they were diddling the system.

If it’s good enough for the poor, it should be good enough for the rich too. Why not legislate to ensure that the bank accounts of the obscenely rich can be audited? Why not legislate to ensure that they can be taxed remotely? (As money is now mainly numbers in a bank’s file, there should be no difficulty in deducting a number from a rich person’s bank account in order to make it possible for the government to add a number to its own and distribute it through the country without blowing up inflation.)

I know. It’s an infringement of the right to privacy – as government ministers said when it was suggested that their own bank accounts should be open to inspection.

But the same ministers didn’t mind infringing that right, as it applied to pensioners and benefit claimants. And what applies to the poor should be equally applicable to the rich. Right?

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