There has been a lot in the news recently about the shady dealings of certain individuals and companies in Panama. Why are we all so surprised and indignant?
I find it hard to be surprised by the revelations. But I am saddened. Even then, should I be saddened? Should we have a right to expect rich people to behave ethically and to pay their taxes? Would we do the same thing if we could?
Let us face it, taxes have a bad press. How many of us want to be friends with people who work in the tax office? Even when we have nothing to hide, we are afraid that they might find something. Throughout history the tax collector has been the bad guy. Even in the bible tax collectors were classed along with prostitutes and lepers as best avoided.
Our society measure success through the size of the bank account and the model of the car on the drive. It measures it by the line of work one is in, and the title on the business card. Mothers brag of children who enter the professions, being lawyers, doctors or dentists. Politicians are given way too much media attention. Celebrities from all walks of life are feted at every turn and put on pedestals. No wonder they all think that the world loves them and they can do no wrong.
So okay, we are maybe not surprised when people hide their wealth in offshore havens, and manage to go years without paying taxes, but we are right to be indignant. We are indignant because the rest of us have to pay the taxes, otherwise society could not function. We can see that in Greece and other countries without a functioning tax collection system and where more avoid taxes than pay them.
We know that taxes have to be paid, even if we do not like doing it. And because we know it, and the rich guys know it too, then we want fairness and justice, and everyone paying their share.
It is not fair that the rich get richer and the poor have to struggle and cannot afford a home because the banks are corrupt and so much property is owned by offshore companies that it pushes up prices for Mr and Mrs Average. It is hypocritical for our politicians to say that tax evasion is criminal and to practice it themselves.
So is it now time for the rich to realize that society only works when all play their parts, and for those of us who do not have offshore bank accounts to stand up and demand a fairer more just society? Is it time to stop idolizing the pop stars and actors, and to start questioning the large profits of companies that we do not know the owners of, and yet we are happy to buy their goods and drink their coffee. Is it time for our leaders to be true leaders and lead by example and not just by words? Do as I say and not as I do, is not something we will accept from politicians any longer.
And in this spirit it is time to make friends with the tax men and women, who are trying their best to do a necessary job for a thankless society. Maybe they need to be our new heros.