26 November 2009 Edition
Another View BY EOIN Ó BROIN
Taxing our credibility
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 www.tascnet.ie 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.