Super-rich call for higher taxes on wealthy or the economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis
“As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world,” the millionaires said in a letter shared with the Guardian. “No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. “But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.”
The group warned that the economic impact of coronavirus crisis will “last for decades” and could “push half a billion more people into poverty”. Among those adding their names to the letter are Sir Stephen Tindall, the founder of the Warehouse Group and New Zealand’s second richest man with a $475m (£370m) fortune; the British screenwriter and director Richard Curtis; and the Irish venture capitalist John O’Farrell, who made millions investing in Silicon Valley tech companies.
“The problems caused by, and revealed by, Covid-19 can’t be solved with charity, no matter how generous. Government leaders must take the responsibility for raising the funds we need and spending them fairly,” the letter says. “We owe a huge debt to the people working on the frontlines of this global battle. Most essential workers are grossly underpaid for the burden they carry.”
The group released the letter ahead of this weekend’s G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting. They called on politicians to “address global inequality and acknowledge that tax increases on the wealthy and greater international tax transparency are essential for a viable long-term solution”.
The number of super-rich people continues to grow despite the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis and global lockdowns. Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person and the founder of Amazon, has seen his fortune swell by $75bn so far this year to a record $189bn.
There are more than 500,000 people in the world classed as “ultra-wealthy” with fortunes of more than $30m (£26.5m). That means there are more ultra-wealthy people around the world than the populations of Iceland, Malta or Belize.
There have been repeated calls for the super-rich to contribute more following the Covid-19 crisis. Critics have pointed out that while Bezos has donated $100m, it represents less than 0.1% of his estimated fortune. In the UK, the Labour party has called on the government to consider introducing a wealth tax on the richest members of society to help fund the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, this month said: “We are saying to the government, look at the idea of a wealth tax, we certainly support the principle that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden.”
In Norway, about 500,000 people pay a 0.85% charge on their assets above the value of about £126,000. The millionaires’ letter was organised by the Patriotic Millionaires, Oxfam, Human Act, Tax Justice UK, Club of Rome, Resource Justice, and Bridging Ventures.