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The taxman cometh; five warnings

Por: | 18 de marzo de 2012


Item 1. 35 billion euros is a public spending cut from hell. The government has to raise taxes, and the rest - the speculation, the flip-flopping, the hints followed by denials - is pure circus. But then, no one really likes the fiscal element of those two oft-cited certainties of life.

Item 2. Taxes feel like punishment, and in Spain something more akin to humiliation when we read of how some public officials lead frothy, lavish lives thanks to the sweat of our brow. A government's task is to make the stick somehow resemble a carrot, rewarding certain behavior while condemning those who make wasteful choices to cough up more. The result of what tastes like a carrot should then strike a blow for the economy as a whole, or this is the theory. Tax breaks on insulation measures save energy and free up consumers' money to be spent in Spain's dominant services sector. An across-the-board VAT hike, however, stilts consumption, as was seen in Spain in the second half of 2010.

Item 3. Rajoy's PP government has already raised income tax, with the prime minister showing a Machiavellian streak in doubling back on his own words just days after closing the door of La Moncloa behind him in the middle of the Christmas vacation. He was clever enough to know that if you have to use the stick, it hurts less if the victim doesn't see it coming.

Item 4. The taxman can also enjoy a few fripperies and bits on the side. Of the more recent proposals and impositions, the euro placed by Catalonia on virtually all medical prescriptions will raise little money and a great many hackles. It gives the opposition Socialists something to campaign over and may even help keep the PP shy of an absolute majority in Andalusia, the great pre-budget contest, at the end of this month. That the government has hinted that it will tax diesel-powered vehicles more heavily is to be welcomed as a spoke in the right wheels but, on the other hand, the Madrid region's idea of charging stores and malls a levy for being situated near a Metro station had me reaching for the calendar: it can't be Holy Innocents' Day again already! A store owner knows there is a Metro station nearby. That fact is already factored into its economy, how high the rent is set, what goods will sell well, and so on. Sales and moneys from rent or real-estate values are already taxable. What activity is being levied in what we should call the Retroactive Infrastructural Benefits tax?

Item 5. One fifth of homes in Spain lie empty. Who does not know of someone who has been unable to remove an uncooperative tenant from their property, or is unwilling to even risk renting out their flat because of the horror stories doing the rounds? Such issues are far from simple to legislate but I see potential carrots and sticks on the horizon. Empty houses should be subject to a special tax, something that the Catalan and Basque authorities have looked into to prevent speculation and put housing stock to a social use. Proof is clearly a tricky beast in such cases. So the carrot better be a good one: a rental scheme, with (fair) rates guaranteed by the government and eviction easy to effect. Good jobs for the young are scarce and salaries scanty - so cheap and plentiful rental accommodation is a must in a country where the obsession with buying straitjackets so many families' economic options. When better than a crisis to bring about a change in culture?

Photograph of Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro, by Uly Martín.

Hay 2 Comentarios

Cut 50% of all politicians at all levels, they add no value and cause chaos.

Shouldn't the taxman be paying a visit to corporations and rich individuals who are doing more than well and still evading taxes?

I don't mind paying more and I love the idea of bringing about a change in culture, but it would be very unfair to see how, while most of us bear the effort and try to do things right, some in the top do what they want and get away with it. Yet the government doesn't seem to be serious about tax evasion and will do nothing against the big oligopolies of the energy and banking business which gives them juicy job positions and money for their campaigns. But then again, when better than a crisis to bring about a change in politics?

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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