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  • David Wheeler and the Tax Problem

    David Wheeler is a professional football player for Queens Park Rangers F.C. which he transferred to from Exeter City for half a million pounds in August. Like all professional players his championship-level salary is likely to be impressive, which is why his recent interview in the Guardian turned a few heads.

    “I don’t feel upset by paying what looks like a large amount as a professional footballer. You’re contributing that money into a lot of things that are very positive about society.”

    Heads were turned not simply by those engrossed in the footballing world. Wheeler's was a rare voice by what would be considered 'top earners' to support themselves being taxed highly, despite the financial loss. While there are few people willing to come out to a deliver a passionate defence of the opposite view point, it is more common for top-earning public figures to restrain from voicing their opinion on the subject. Indeed, there have been numerous high-profile cases of celebreties exposed for attempting to avoid tax, which make Wheeler's declaration all the more impressive.

    Fundamentally, tax has always been a divisive subject. During the post-war era in Britain and the creation of the welfare state, the 'benefit' of high taxation was immediate. The welfare state - only made possible through a huge increase in the number of taxpayers, helped drag Britain out of a potentially disastrous situation, and continued to support the general public in the form of proud establishments like the NHS. Yet even in view of the potential benefits of a taxed society, many conservative voices began, and still advocate lower taxes, declaring them 'legalised theft'.

    The wealthy find themselves in a privileged position where they can hire accountants and lawyers to find loopholes to avoid paying a significant amount of tax. Firms like Ernst and young, Price waterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG are such firms are examples of those who discovered that helping the rich avoid tax could become a new way of making profits. Against popular opinion, in 2012, the then Chancellor George Osborn slashed the top rate of tax from 50 to 40 percent, shocking at the same time that the average British citizen was suffering the longest squeeze in living standards since the 1980s. Similarly, big businesses have shown a shocking desire to avoid to pay as much tax as possible, where the likes of Starbucks, Amazon and Google have all made miniscule contributions in wake of billions of profits made.

    One argument used often by those in favour of low tax is 'an unfavoured tax system would simply provoke an exodus of the wealthy and the job makers'. Recently this theory has been rejected by leading U.S. think tank.

    Which brings us back to why Wheeler's declaration is so refreshing and necessary. While the elite can afford to find legal means to avoid contributing a progressively fair amount to the treasury, many working people simply don't have this option. And while many of the elite use private health care and send their children to private schools, it is the working people who's public institutions are struggling to keep up with demand.

    From all levels of society we hear how tax is cruel and punishes those for working hard. Perhaps, however, the real cruelty is disregarding the importance of not putting a value on the amount the government takes from your pay check, when there's a decent chance tomorrow somebody will survive a car crash due to the medical attention they receive, because the healthcare system  'meets the needs of everyone. and is free at the point of delivery.'.