A GROUP OF economists, activists, politicians and millionaires from seven countries across Europe registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) on 8 June.
The ECI calls on the European Union (EU) to adopt a permanent annual wealth tax on Europe’s largest fortunes, to raise revenue to reduce poverty and inequality both at home and in poorer countries, and to tackle the climate crisis.
The signatories are joining a chorus of voices around the world calling for greater taxation of the richest in light of record gains at the top of society amid economic hardship for the many. During the first two pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years, $26 trillion (63 per cent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest one per cent, while $16 trillion (37 per cent) went to the rest of the world put together.
In the EU, the richest one per cent had 4.5 times as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent.
Last March, more than one hundred members of the European Parliament, supported by several leading economists including Gabriel Zucman and Joseph Stiglitz, as well as the Patriotic Millionaires, called on the EU to introduce a progressive tax on extreme wealth. Oxfam estimates that an annual wealth tax of up to five per cent on Europe’s billionaires could raise nearly €250 billion a year.
The European Citizens’ Initiative allows European citizens to call on the European Commission to propose new laws. The initiators of the ECI will have one year to collect one million signatures, starting in July.
Marlene Engelhorn, millionaire, co-founder of taxmenow and member of the Patriotic Millionaires, said: “When poverty is soaring, and wealthy people like me are demanding to be taxed more, you know governments are on the wrong side of history. People won’t accept any more excuses. We must tax the rich.”
Lars Koch, Executive Director of Oxfam Denmark, said: “Governments have a simple choice. They can continue to let the super-rich fill their pockets while everyday people struggle to pay their bills, and aid and climate finance promises go unmet. Or they can put the needs of the many before the luxury of the few and tax the rich. A wealth tax can help reverse today’s unsustainable levels of inequality and unlock the billions needed for people and the planet. It is what we need for a fairer Europe and world.”
Thomas Piketty, economist, said: ”Europe is becoming less and less equal and we now know that the richest in our society pay less taxes than everybody else, as their wealth grows larger and much of it is undertaxed or even untaxed. EU institutions can change this if they listen to their citizens. It’s time to make our tax system fairer by introducing a progressive wealth tax in Europe.”
Oxfam’s Survival of the Richest report shows that while the richest one per cent captured 54 per cent of new global wealth over the past decade, this has accelerated to 63 per cent in the past two years. $42 trillion of new wealth was created between December 2019 and December 2021. $26 trillion (63 per cent) was captured by the richest one per cent, while $16 trillion (37 per cent) went to the bottom 99 per cent.
* Read: Survival of the Richest here.
* Source: Oxfam International