Taxation and fairness

 

Sir, – Jim O’Sullivan opens his letter of March 3rd by telling your readers that I am a whizz with statistics. I didn’t have to read much further to realise that this was an accusation rather than a compliment.

The central contention in Mr O’Sullivan’s letter is that in mine of February 29th, I had defended the rich from any proposal to increase tax on wealth so as to achieve “a modicum of distributive justice here”. His letter deals exclusively with the distribution of wealth in Ireland. He argues that it is simply not possible to refer to a tax system as “progressive” which allows what in his view is a grotesquely lopsided distribution of the nation’s wealth to materialise. My letter did not have a word to say on the distribution of wealth and did not utter a syllable in favour of or against the introduction of a wealth tax. I made only one point – that high-income earners in Ireland tend to pay more of their income in taxes than do their counterparts elsewhere while low-income earners in Ireland pay less taxes on income than their non-Irish counterparts. In making this point I was not being contentious or argumentative and I was not offering an opinion. I was stating a fact and was careful to back it up by reference to statistics produced not by this whizz but by Eurostat, the OECD and the Irish Tax Institute. If Mr O’Sullivan has proposals for the introduction of a wealth tax in Ireland I will be more than happy to debate them with him. It may be thought to be passing strange that the one tax we have which might fall into that category is opposed by the most left-wing of the three major political parties. I think I know why. The local property tax is paid on all residential properties. Those with more valuable properties pay more, which I think is fair, but all residential property owners pay something. Everyone makes a contribution and that is clearly not the case with our system for taxing income. Perhaps it should be. – Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.