Feb 13 2012

Harry Potter says: tax the rich more

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter star, is quoted in the Huffington Post today:

“I think, if you make a lot more money than most people — like I do — you should pay more tax and subsidise people who work just as hard as you, but don’t earn as much,” Radcliffe said.

He joins a growing list of extremely wealthy people, like Warren Buffett, who are saying similar things. And good on them. Funnily enough, Harry Potter’s creator, J.K. Rowling, said something important about tax that was rather in the same vein. It’s powerful stuff:

“I never, ever, expected to find myself in a position where I could understand, from personal experience, the choices and temptations open to a man as rich as Lord Ashcroft. The fact remains that the first time I ever met my recently retired accountant, he put it to me point-blank: would I organise my money around my life, or my life around my money? If the latter, it was time to relocate to Ireland, Monaco, or possibly Belize.

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.”

On this evidence, I think it’s fair to say that Harry Potter thinks the rich should be taxed more, or at least taxed properly. The rest of this J.K. Rowling interview is behind a subscription wall, but you can read a bit more of it here.

6 comments so far

Alien Edouard 2th February, 2012 10.08 am

It would help Rowling’s credibility if she knew what she is talking about:

She did not choose to remain a DOMICILED taxpayer. Regardless of what she did, she was going to remain UK-domiciled because herself and (as I understand it) her entire family always lived in that country. Now, she may have meant that she elected to remain a UK RESIDENT taxpayer. But domicile and residence are two very, very different things.

As a domiciled taxpayer, Rowling would indeed have enjoyed the benefit of the British state and society: it educated her, provided healthcare, and even supported her in times of needs. She definitely is indebted for that, and well done to her for sticking around and paying some of that back rather than upping the sticks and moving somewhere like, erh, Zurich?

But non-domiciled taxpayers are different animals alltogehter: they are not British, were educated in the US at no cost to the UK, send their kids to the American School and would rather see a vet in their home country than a British doctor. They are not part of British society and for the vast majority of them don’t want to be. Oh, and they pay a lot of taxes in the UK (£6 billion or so) without receiving any benefit in return other than a poorly surfaced road to take them to the airport and back.

It is great of you to listen to Daniel Radcliffe’s deep opinions. There is a lot to be learnt from late teens or twenty-something speaking about serious matters. What next: Lindsey Lohan on substance abuse? or Paris Hilton on teenage sex?

Nick Shaxson 2th February, 2012 10.43 am

Alien Edouard, you are clearly very angry. May I suggest an irate letter or two to the respective newspapers, to get it off your chest? Perhaps start an anti Radcliffe club?

Alien Edouard 2th February, 2012 10.51 am

It is the time of year running up to April 15 where I am typically in a very bad mood.

Nick Shaxson 2th February, 2012 11.04 am

aha, OK. just think how clear your conscience will feel on April 16 . . hopefully you are paying your appropriate share for all those public goods you consume!

Alien Edouard 2th February, 2012 10.07 am

Dear Nicholas, I consume almost no public good that I do not pay through the nose:

– I went to a private high school. got myself through college mostly on a sports scholarship complemented by coaching jobs
– I always had private healthcare
– my kids are at the American School, that is $30k a year per head, before extras for food, transportation, the piano teacher, etc.
– I do not own a vehicle, use public transportation for which I pay through the nose.

The only public good I consume is law and order, and it is the only one that I am moderately happy to pay for. Although, frankly, seeing the state of the London PD, I doubt that I get value for money.

I really do not think that I will be feeling better on April 16.

Nick Shaxson 2rd February, 2012 8.41 am

Edouard, it’s interesting that you don’t benefit (e.g. via your work) from a healthy and educated workforce, from the universities that produce all those technology grads, from the roads that you travel on, from the properly regulated airspace, bandwitdh, from the competition authorities, from the clean(er) environment, etc

Do you live in a cave?

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