Saturday, June 26, 2010

Time For Some Wealth Redistribution

The revelation this week that the Spanish government has possession of the data concerning 3000 accounts in a Swiss bank has caused a certain amount of expectation. If the press reports concerning these accounts are to be believed, the total sum being held is a cool €6,000 million, which on average works out at 2 million per account. The suspicion is that a large part, if not all, of this money has been concealed from the Spanish tax authorities; meaning in theory that the country's deficit reduction plan should be in for a handy boost from these reluctant taxpayers.

We'll see. The union representing the tax inspectors has already protested that these very wealthy tax fraudsters may get a kinder treatment from the taxman than the rest of us can expect for far more minor irregularities. It seems that the owners of the accounts are being invited to voluntarily regularise their situation, meaning that they pay the outstanding taxes on their money together with interest. The problem is that tax fraud involving sums greater than €120,000 is a crime rather than an administrative offence. So for the holders of these accounts to get away with a "sorry, I forgot to declare my Swiss bank account...again" is going to raise inevitable protests as it effectively encourages fraudsters.

We don't know the exact number of people involved, as finance minister Elena Salgado has hinted that some of those involved may have multiple accounts. The data has come from the French government, and affects accounts held in a single bank several years ago. This means that we could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg of where the real profits from Spain's boom have ended up. It's become very common in this crisis to hear a "we've all been too greedy" kind of lament which in turn gets used to justify us all paying the same price. Clearly some have been just a tiny bit greedier, and there is a real possibility that they will get away with it. Apart from the obvious recourse of criminal charges, I can see the case here for naming and shaming.


Andrew said...

Expedience rules - get the money back, ignore criminal proceedings except for those who refuse an amnesty.
Otherwise a lot of money locked up in the Spanish legal system and more rich lawyers.

Graeme said...

Looks like the lawyers will do well anyway Andrew. I have read that many of those involved have been advised not to settle voluntarily with Hacienda.

santcugat said...

Statute of limitations... nothing will happen.

Graeme said...

Supposedly the reason why they have been given until June 30th to regularise their position is precisely to avoid the statute of limitations. Alos, I've read that in cases where it is classified as a crime there is an extra year for action to be taken.Another matter is whether the will exists to take that action.

santcugat said...

Yes, please admit your guilt before June 30, or else we won't be able to charge you with anything.