Rich call for higher taxes

Rich call for higher taxes
Photo: DPA
Wealthy Germans are joining what is becoming a European trend: Ultra rich people saying they are willing to carry a higher tax burden in order to help the continent’s economies struggling with crushing levels of debt.

Four rich individuals, including a football club owner and a famous musician, made the plea in Die Zeit weekly newspaper. They argued the extra money raised should be used to shore up German society.

“I would have no problem if the top tax rate were to be raised,” said Michael Otto, who is worth more than $16 billion ($11 billion) and heads up the massive mail order company of the same name.

Martin Kind, president of the Hannover 96 Bundesliga football club and head of a firm making hearing aids, echoed Otto’s words while adding the condition that the national debt be addressed.

“A few percentage points in higher taxes won’t make the wealthy poor,” said rock musician Marius Müller-Westernhagen.

The words echo similar statements from famed US billionaire Warren Buffet, who has called on the rich to shoulder more of the burden during tough economic times.

Sixteen wealthy French citizens, including Christophe de Margerie of oil giant Total and L’Oréal heir Liliane Bettencourt, signed a petition earlier this month, asking the government to increase their taxes. The French government has since proposed a three-percent surcharge for the country’s ultra rich.

Germany itself has a back-and-forth history of both wealthy people offering to pay more taxes and government officials criticizing their excesses.

A group of about 50 wealthy Germans called the Initiative of the Wealthy for a Wealth Tax, has been calling for higher taxes on the wealthy for some time now.

But last year, former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück condemned what he called the “excesses” of well-off Germans, whom he said often sought to avoid taxation.

One of the questions to be addressed is how increased taxes on the wealthy should look in practical terms. Should there be higher property, payroll or inheritance taxes? Or should all of those rise?

Another question is whether rich offering to pay increased taxes really would help the economy or whether it is just a way for them to curry favour from a public increasingly frustrated in tough times.

“Maybe some are ashamed by what they earn,” said Jean-Philippe Delsol, from the Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues in France, to the New York Times.

He told the Times that higher taxes could actually discourage people from earning more money, ending up as a drain on national coffers.

The Local/DPA/mdm

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