Want to help the poor? Introduce a luxury tax. If we really actually want to help, that is.

You'd like one, but you don't need one.

You'd like one, but you don't need one.

I recently posted a remark on Facebook about how the¬†Irish people have historically never cared that much about eliminating poverty in our society. I was attacked for that remark by a Fianna Failer who was, at the time, attacking Fine Gael for being right-wing. He suggested that it was a disgraceful thing to suggest, and that the Irish people did care. Of course, on paper, he’s correct. As a people, we talk an awful lot about poverty reduction. It’s just that at election time we always vote for the parties that promise to let us keep our money rather than give too much of it to people poorer than us.

Imagine, for example, the state decided to raise extra revenue for distribution to the poor, and chose to levy a luxury tax. The concept would be a tax on high value non-essential goods, on the basis that the only people who would end up paying the tax would be those with disposable income. It could be levied on high value vehicles, clothes, certain foodstuffs, foreign holidays, consumer goods like iPads and cellphones, etc. Yes, it would be tricky to determine exactly what would be covered, but the tax could be collected by a new high rate of VAT on those specific products.

So, here’s my question. Is there a single Irish party, from the Socialist Party to Sinn Fein to People Before Profit all the way across to Fine Gael that would suggest levying a tax like this on NON-ESSENTIAL products like this to help raise additional funds to help the most vulnerable in our society? The answer is almost certainly not, because it would be incredibly unpopular. Irish people would not be willing to go without non-essential consumer goods so that poorer people could live better, and that’s why we don’t care as much as we claim about helping the poor.¬†

3 thoughts on “Want to help the poor? Introduce a luxury tax. If we really actually want to help, that is.

  1. A luxury tax is a fantastic idea … but fails at the point where you have to describe what a luxury is.

    An ipad, sure. Any tablet pc in the next 10 years, an awful idea (and the State doesn’t adapt quickly)
    Are mobile phones (above a certain cost?)? They drive economies.
    Are computers? You’re taxing people’s ability to get online, which affects their ability to get work etc. etc.
    Are novels? They’re not educational, and don’t feed families.
    Video Games & DVDs – not a bad contender.
    Cake – sure, why not?

    Any suggestions on how to rate items?

  2. This idea is slightly undermined by the current VAT system, which is essentially what you describe.

    Most goods are charged at the 21% rate, with some (normally labour heavy) things at a reduced rate of 13.5%. Then there is a 0% rate on many foods, medicines and children’s clothes.

    So, actually, the answer is “almost certainly so”, since what you describe has been a feature of the VAT system since at least the 1970s, and doesn’t seem to have been attacked by many/any parties since.

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