Taxing the billionaires

Sir, – Shana Cohen ("Taxing our 17 billionaires will not fix inequality", Opinion & Analysis, January 21st) urges our Government to address inequality, referencing an Oxfam report.

The “Irish” billionaires referenced by Oxfam are identified by citizenship, not residency, as necessary for taxation purposes.

Perhaps the reason these billionaires live abroad is because in Ireland we have the most progressive income tax system in Europe to reduce income inequality, according to a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the rate of deprivation and consistent poverty here almost halved between 2013 and 2018, as well as a reduction in wealth inequality. Wealth taxes already exist, such as local property tax and capital gains tax.

Personally, I take no issue with the filthy rich, provided they pay their taxes. We must create wealth before we begin to share it. – Yours, etc,


Fine Gael Group Leader,

South Dublin

County Council


Dublin 24.

Sir, – Speaking in the Dáil last week, the Taoiseach questioned the methodology of Oxfam’s new report, Inequality Kills, and our call for a wealth tax.

One of the main purposes of a wealth tax is that it acts as a reporting law, or as a system which generates information about the distribution of wealth.

Because we don’t have up-to-date disaggregated data on wealth holdings, we are forced to make assessments as to the levels of wealth in Ireland, and extreme wealth, based on the best sources available to us.

Ironically, one of the main limitations of these sources is that they may significantly underestimate elite wealth, being based only on publicly disclosed assets.

However, unlike the days of the lily-livered French wealth tax some years ago, we now live in a world where the technical and political capabilities for wealth taxes are much greater – successful imposition is now effectively a political choice.

Therefore, I welcome the Taoiseach’s statement that “we need to assess these reports and do a little more analysis of them”. If the Taoiseach were willing to improve upon the 2016 ESRI report, merely of household wealth, which found that the richest 10 per cent in this country own 53 per cent of that wealth, whereas the poorest 50 per cent have less than 2 per cent of it, we would fully support him.

Furthermore, Oxfam Ireland’s submission to the Commission on Wealth and Taxation recommends that the Government introduces the necessary anti-fraud mechanisms and collection infrastructure to aid wealth tax collection in Ireland.

Such measures would include the development of an international asset register and public and centralised registers of beneficial ownership for companies, trusts, foundations and other financial assets. These measures could be progressed through multilateral processes similar to the EU and OECD attempts to end corporate tax avoidance.

I would end by pointing to the recent successful implementation of a wealth tax in Argentina, dubbed the “Oxfam tax”, which has brought in US$2.4 billion.

Based on Central Bank of Ireland and CSO estimates, it seems more than reasonable to expect that an Irish wealth tax would return more than this, as Ireland’s economy is somewhat larger than Argentina’s.

It is right that we should ask those that have gained most from the pandemic to contribute to the recovery. An increasing number of millionaires, such as the Patriotic Millionaires in the US, support us. Wealth taxes should be an important component of any attempt to create a fairer, better world. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Shana Cohen writes of Oxfam’s suggestion that governments impose a “one-off 99.9 per cent tax” on the wealth of the 10 richest men in the world.

Imagine the relief felt by Jeff, Bill and Warren once they realised that the suggested imposition will not recur. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.