'Tax us' say over 200 millionaires who back Oxfam's call to redistribute wealth

A panel discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2023. REUTERS - ARND WIEGMANN

As the rich, famous and influential meet at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aid agency Oxfam says billionaires should be made obsolete. And 200 millionaires agree. In an open letter addressed to world leaders, they say they want to pay more tax "for the common good".

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The number of billionaires should be halved by 2030 through higher taxes and other policies to make the world a fairer place, Oxfam said at the opening of the Davos summit on Monday.

In response to this call, more than 200 millionaires from 13 different countries have written an open letter to world leaders, saying they want tax increases.

Over the past decade, according to Oxfam, the richest 10 percent of the world's population have seen their wealth increase by 50 percent.

"You, our world leaders, should tax us, the super-rich," the letter reads. "And you should start doing it now.

"It's a simple and sensible way of saving money, an investment in the common good and a better future.

"We as millionaires want to make that investment." 

Billionaire busting policies

In its latest report entitled "Survival of the Richest", Oxfam says the very wealthy have grown richer thanks to the cost-of-living crisis which was sparked by the Covid pandemic and soaring food and energy prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Since 2020, billionaire wealth has surged by $2.7 billion a day even as inflation outpaced the wages of at least 1.7 billion workers worldwide.

Food and energy companies, the aid organisation notes, more than doubled their profits last year.

Oxfam called for taxes at rates that progressively redistribute wealth and reduce extreme inequality.

For starters, it said, "the world should aim to halve the wealth and number of billionaires between now and 2030, both by increasing taxes on the top one percent and by adopting other billionaire-busting policies".

Such steps would bring billionaire wealth and numbers back to levels last seen in 2012.

"The eventual aim should be to go further, and to abolish billionaires altogether, as part of a fairer, more rational distribution of the world's wealth," it said.

Many rich people pay no tax

Oxfam said higher taxes on dividends as well as "one-off solidarity" wealth and windfall taxes should be introduced "to stop crisis profiteering".

It also called for a permanent tax increase on the richest one percent, with a minimum 60 percent tax on their income from labour and capital.

Citing a report by the US investigative news group ProPublica, Oxfam said many of the world's richest people paid hardly any taxes, with Tesla boss Elon Musk facing a "true tax rate" of just 3.2 percent between 2014-2018, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paying less than one percent.

In stark contrast, a market trader in Uganda pays 40 percent of their profits in tax, the charity said.

France ready to welcome rich people

France has at least 120,000 millionaires, but only two of the signatories of the tax letter are French. They are the little-known Jonathan Hallama, who lives in Brittany but works for a foundation in Germany and Eugénie E, who refuses to give her family name.

The majority of the others are American or British. They include the actor Mark Ruffalo and the film producer Abigail Disney, grand-niece of Mickey Mouse's inventor Walt Disney.

The richest man in the world is the luxury goods monger Bernard Arnault. Oxfam calculates that a 2 percent tax on his bank balance would be enough to balance France's heavily indebted pension budget.

If the letter writers really want to pay more tax, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has a message for them: "Come to France, you will be welcome," he said Wednesday morning on the radio. "And you can be sure you will pay a tax rate among the highest in the developed world.

"And, yes, the French national treasury accepts cheques," the minister joked.