Friday, August 10, 2007

The Pope and the Motorcyclist

Italy's deputy economics minister Vincenzo Visco has questioned the UK's domicile laws. The Italian authorities are investigating motorcyclist Valentino Rossi for suspected tax evasion on undeclared revenues of 60 million euros. As the FT puts it, Visco wonders how "a more or less fictitious residence in London can allow one not to pay taxes in one's own country. I have asked my offices to verify if these regulations are in the spirit of the EU and to see if there is the basis for raising the issue in Strasbourg."

TJN is fighting against the UK domicile laws, and points out that there are strong grounds for believing they are illegal under European law. It is right to kick up a fuss about this, for it illustrates a more general point: one country's selfish tax policies harm other countries. International transparency and co-operation on tax is what is needed.

The Washington Post has also reported this:

Premier Romano Prodi has called on Roman Catholic priests to help him battle Italy’s widespread tax evasion by invoking the seventh commandment: “thou shalt not steal.”

And, as Richard Murphy points out, Romans 13: 6 & 7 in the bible is quite explicit:

This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.

And now, a fascinating development beckons. Read about it in the UK's Times newspaper. The Pope, no less, is reported to be working on a doctrinal pronouncement on taxation.

In his second encyclical – the most authoritative statement a pope can issue – the pontiff will denounce the use of “tax havens” and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole.

Well done, pontiff. Everywhere we look now, tax justice seems to be breaking out.


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