“They don’t pay their taxes” is something you might hear someone say about immigrants in European countries. This argument goes hand-in-hand with the argument that migrants put pressure on social services such as schools and hospitals. “Services paid for by hard-working, tax-paying locals.” These arguments are commonly used to suggest that Europe should close its borders to newcomers, especially considering the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe in the last few years.
However, when we take a closer look at the facts, we see that there are some people in European societies who are using various tactics to avoid paying millions of Euros in tax – and they aren’t newly-arrived refugees. Using tools such as offshore funds and other loopholes, major international corporations and wealthy individuals hide billions that should be paid in tax to support vital public services – leaving hard-working people to pick up the bill. It is estimated that offshore tax avoidance and evasion cost European countries 79 billion US dollars in tax revenues in 20141 – a total calculated before the leaked Panama Papers revealed the massive scale of offshore tax avoidance by wealthy companies and individuals.
Rather than taking meaningful steps to tackle this issue, many European governments actively help large multinational corporations to keep their tax rates low. In the UK, Google struck a deal with the government to pay back just 131 million pounds in back taxes after it was revealed it had paid less than 100 million in tax on over 7.2 billion pounds of profit.2 In Ireland, Apple has an agreement to pay just 2% corporation tax, rather than the official 12.5% level, despite sitting on a reported 216 billion US dollars in global cash reserves.3 Meanwhile, Irish residents pay a minimum of 20% in income tax.4
Despite this, populist politicians and media continue to blame many of the problems facing European societies and public services on migrants and refugees. Tax avoidance and evasion harms public services – and the future of young people all over Europe. Should we really be blaming all our problems on migration?
Whether or not we are asylum-seekers, we are all Life Seekers, who desire a better future. Do you agree that European governments should focus on the real problems facing our societies, and stop scapegoating migrants and refugees? Raise your voice by joining the #LifeSeekers campaign!