More than 100 members of the global super-rich called on Wednesday for governments around the world to “tax us now” to help pay for the pandemic response and tackle the gulf between rich and poor.
The group of 102 millionaires and billionaires, including Disney heiress Abigail Disney, said the current tax system is rigged in their favour and needs to be rewritten to make taxation fairer for hard-working people and restore trust in politics.
“As millionaires, we know that the current tax system is not fair,” they said in an open letter published on Wednesday. “Most of us can say that, while the world has gone through an immense amount of suffering in the last two years, we have actually seen our wealth rise during the pandemic – yet few if any of us can honestly say that we pay our fair share in taxes.”
The super-rich signatories, who brand themselves as “patriotic millionaires”, called for the introduction of “permanent wealth taxes on the richest to help reduce extreme inequality and raise revenue for sustained, long-term increases in public services like healthcare”.
“Restoring trust requires taxing the rich,” they said in the letter, published as world leaders and business executives meet for a virtual Davos World Economic Forum. “The world – every country in it – must demand the rich pay their fair share. Tax us, the rich, and tax us now.”
The group, which also includes Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist who made an almost $1bn fortune from an early bet on Amazon, said an annual “wealth tax” on those with fortunes of more than $5m (£3.7m) could raise more than $2.52tr.
That would be enough, they said, to “lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty; make enough vaccines for the world and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower-middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).”
The proposed tax would see those with more than $5m pay 2%, rising to 3% for those with more than $50m and a 5% rate for dollar billionaires.
Taxing the UK’s wealthiest 119,000 people at these rates would raise an estimated £43.7bn, a year, according to an analysis by campaign groups Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and the Patriotic Millionaires.
The signatories said this would be enough to:
Pay for the Health and Social Care Levy twice over every year – eliminating the need to raise national insurance on working people.
Cover the salaries of an additional 50,000 new nurses.
Pay for the permanent increase of universal credit.
Build 35,000 affordable houses and retrofit the UK’s draughtiest homes to reduce the cost of energy bills and help fight the climate crisis.
Gemma McGough, a British entrepreneur and founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, said:
“At a time when simply living will cost the average household a further £1,200 a year, our government cannot expect to be trusted if it would rather tax working people than wealthy people. If they do anything in the next few months, they should do this: rather than raising national insurance, tax the rich – tax us – instead.”
Jenny Ricks, global convenor at the Fight Inequality Alliance, said: “The insane reality is that while billions face a daily struggle to survive during this pandemic, billionaire-wealth is spiralling out of control. This cannot be right. The multiple crises we face from vaccine inequality to climate breakdown have a vice-like grip on people’s lives that is not letting up. For years Davos has shown us the elites cannot and will not end the virus of inequality they have helped to create and built their fortunes on the back of.”