What taxes would you pay?
Before the crash, Ireland was over dependant on stamp duty and corporate taxes, so when the property market collapsed so did our tax base. Our low corporation tax means that multinationals with good accountants are paying their taxes in Ireland, and thereby depriving poorer countries of the taxes that should be paid in these counties. We are coming under pressure from both President Trump and the European Union to increase our corporation tax; so what taxes do you think we should be paying?
Here is a selection:
1. Higher property taxes, linked with an unused room and unused land tax
This would be a nightmare to draft, and a nightmare for political parties to propose, but it could result in the relatively wealthy older house owners downsizing, making affordable houses available for younger buyers and encouraging the former to rent out apartments in their houses, as happens in mainland Europe.
2. Tobin Tax
A proposed tax on foreign exchange transactions. The tax is intended to reduce excessive speculation on currencies by making it more expensive. First proposed after the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the Tobin tax is often re-proposed after major currency crises because speculation can cause unsustainable rises and crashes in foreign exchange rates
This tax could only make sense if it were agreed by the United Nations, the O.E.C.D.
3. Increased carbon taxes
Ireland was one of the first countries to introduce a carbon emissions tax. Since 2010, it has provided around €2 billion to the national tax take. We are paying three times less tax on our CO2 emissions than Sweden. We may have to pay between €60m and €240m. in fines as we will fall below our reduction in CO2 target by 2020.
Sometimes we get it wrong and the law of unforeseen consequences is unleashed! The reduced tax on diesel, because it produced less CO2, ignored the equally dangerous NOx and particulate pollution, which cause thousands of deaths world- wide. At present, petrol cars are less polluting, but we are buying second hand diesel cars in great numbers from the U.K.
4. Meat tax
Widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet could result in 63 per cent drop in greenhouse gases as population grows.
"Widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet could result in 63 per cent drop in greenhouse gases as population grows" (Meat Free Mondays May 2016)
China now consumes 28% of the world’s meat, including half of its pork. Photograph: Wong Campion/Reuters
The Chinese government has outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, in a move that climate campaigners hope will provide major heft in the effort to avoid runaway global warming.
New dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Chinese Communist party has found unusual allies among Hollywood celebrities, with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron involved in a series of new public information adverts encouraging Chinese people to consume less animal flesh to help the environment.
The Danish Council of Ethics has recommended a tax on red meat, saying that beef is “incomparably the most climate-damaging food”.
The council issued a press release on Monday 25 April 2017 saying that climate change is “an ethical problem” that needs to be addressed, and one way of addressing it is through “ethical consumption”. Irish Farmers Journal, 2017.
However, we are facing the huge uncertainly of Brexit, which will seriously reduce the demand for beef. While there are many possible crops for farmers on good land with sufficient rainfall, the farmers in the West and mountainous areas can often only produce suckler cows and sheep, or give up their land to forestry. To propose a meat tax would be political suicide for any party.
The increasing popularity of veganism and vegetarianism shows that people are moving towards a lower consumption of meat and dairy products, to improve their health, the welfare of animals and the environment.
5. Plastics taxes and returnable containers
Ireland’s plastic bag tax was a great success, and many countries have followed suit. Much work needs to be done, particularly in reducing plastic consumption, and developing easily biodegradable packaging, that is acceptable for food producers and public health authorities. A tax on plastic, linked to the environmental havoc caused by them would speed up the process, and concentrate minds.
Recently, plastic bags are no longer acceptable in the recycling bin, for two reasons: the bags wrap themselves around the machines which separate the different items at the recycling depots, and neither China nor India is accepting mixed plastic waste from outside their countries- so there is nowhere for the plastics to go except, incineration, the sea, land fill, dumped rubbish in cities, towns and countryside.
Possibly a way could be developed to include the cost of disposing the item you buy, as happens with electrical items and tyres. This would provide encouragement for people to develop factories where waste plastic items could be processed, and discourage people from using plastic.