Kako učinkovito obdavčiti Ronaldote tega sveta

Gabriel Zucman, soavtor Thomasa Pikettyja in avtor knjige “The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens“, sicer pa profesor na univerzi Berkeley, je danes v New York Timesu objavil izjemno preprost predlog, kako vse Ronaldote tega sveta in druge superbogate posameznike učinkovito obdavčiti, da plačajo pošten delež svojih dohodkov. V zadnjih treh desetletjih se je premoženje zgornjih nekaj odstotkov najpremožnejših drastično povečalo, toda – paradoksalno – bolj bogati danes plačujejo manj davkov kot pred desetletji. Po eni strani zaradi znižanih dohodninskih stopenj, po drugi strani pa zaradi razbohotenja industrije storitev, ki bogatim omogoča učinkovito skrivanje dohodkov v davčnih oazah.

In tukaj nastopi Zucmanov predlog. Pravi, da še tako visoke finančne in zaporne kazni za bogate, če jih ujamejo pri davčnih utajah, ne delujejo odvračujoče. Pač plačajo ugotovljeno razliko za zadnjih nekaj let, ampak njihove motivacije za utajevanje in potencialnih finančnih koristi od tega to ne zmanjšuje. Zato se je treba lotiti vira zla, in sicer razbohotene industrije, ki organizira oziroma ponuja storitve skrivanja dohodkov po davčnih oazah. Treba se je lotiti bank, konzultantskih hiš in pravnih pisarn in jih drastično kaznovati – ne s finančno kaznijo, pač pa z odvzemom licence. Hkrati pa je treba uvesti sankcije proti davčnim oazam. In ko bodo bogati plačevali pošten delež svojih dohodkov, bodo tudi davčne stopnje lahko upadle.

Nekateri bodo jamrali, da bi višja obdavčitev uspešnih športnikov (in drugih) zatrla njihovo motivacijo. Toda ob razumni obdavčitvi, denimo 50% za najvišje dohodke, Ronaldoti tega sveta ne bi bili nič manj motivirani za igranje na najvišji ravni. Le kako smo lahko imeli uspešne športnike, preden so njihovi dohodki povsem ponoreli? Če bi Ronaldo od svojih 93 mio dolarjev, ki jih je zaslužil lani, portugalski državi plačal 46.5 mio dolarjev davkov, bi še vedno dokaj spodobno živel, mar ne?

In še nekaj: obdavčitev ekscesno visokih dohodkov športnikov ni neetična. Ni nemoralno, da država pobere davke iz tega naslova in jih redistribuira. Kajti dohodki teh vrhunskih športnikov niso iz naslova plačila za samo njihovo “delo”, pač pa iz naslova posla, ki ga ustvarijo za svoje delodajalce in za celotno industrijo. Klubi so pripravljeni tako ekscesno visoko plačevati posamezne vrhunske športnike samo zato, ker si od trženja njihovega  imena in lika obetajo visoke dohodke. To pa je komercialna dejavnost, navadna industrija.

The day of the Portugal-Spain match, Ronaldo, who plays for Real Madrid, had acknowledged evading 14.7 million euros (about $17.1 million) in taxes between 2011 and 2014. That’s enough to pay for 800 full-time Spanish primary-school teachers for one year or to treat 1,000 patients with breast cancer.

And Ronaldo is far from an isolated case. In 2017, his archrival, Lionel Messi of Argentina — who plays for FC Barcelona — was given a 21-month prison sentence (which was changed to $2.5 million in fines) for the same crime.

In both cases, the Spanish authorities found the players guilty of dodging taxes on the income derived from their image rights. These rights — which they, like many other professional athletes, had transferred to shell companies in exotic tax havens — account for a large part of their income. For the top players on the planet, such rights can amount to many millions of dollars a year.

But as the cases of Ronaldo, Messi and many wealthy individuals caught in recent leaks such as the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers illustrate, tax evasion is pervasive among the rich, deserving athletes or idle rentiers alike. Why? Not because they are evil people or impervious to the consequences of their actions, but because they are wooed by a global tax evasion industry.

Have you ever been invited by a Swiss bank to a golf tournament in Miami or an exhibition’s opening in Paris? Neither have I. But the world’s “ultrahigh-net-worth individuals” — whether they live in the United States, France or elsewhere — regularly are. Law firms and financial intermediaries sell the superrich on shell companies, offshore bank accounts, trusts and foundations — arrangements whose purpose is to conceal assets by disconnecting wealth, and the income it generates, from its actual owner.

Although this industry presents itself as legal and legitimate, in many cases the products it sells are illegal, because people usually have to pay taxes on their worldwide income (whether it’s “earned” in the British Virgin Islands or Spain makes no difference, as long as you live in Spain), and transactions whose sole purpose is to avoid taxes are typically not legal. In the case of Ronaldo, Spanish prosecutors considered as an aggravating circumstance that he created shell companies for the sole purpose of confusing the taxman.

We’re often told that taxing the most successful among us is impossible or counterproductive. But in fact, professional sports often shows how misguided this argument is.

For one, governments could drastically curb tax evasion by increasing the sanctions against the intermediaries that facilitate it. It’s unlikely that longer prison time or bigger fines would have deterred Ronaldo or Messi. But revoking the licenses of the banks found helping tax dodgers and imposing sanctions against tax havens would cause the supply of tax evasion services to shrink.

Once tax evasion was curbed, governments could tax top incomes at higher rates, for the greater good. And don’t believe anyone who says this would harm the economy — these claims usually don’t make much sense. Look no further than Ronaldo: His image would still be as valuable to Nike if he had to pay more in taxes, and it does not cost him much to provide it — so nothing bad would happen if he had to pay more. With a lower after-tax income, he would still score as many goals. You don’t hurt anyone when you tax the Ronaldos of the world — you just make it possible for everyone to gain when they do.

Vir: New York Times

 

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