The Free Press, Mankato, MN


October 28, 2012

Cash-strapped Europe nations are not shy about taxing the rich


UCCLE, Belgium —

In Spain, the newly installed center-right government pledged to repeal the wealth tax that its Socialist predecessor instituted. But with debt levels rising, putting Madrid at the center of fresh fears over the euro crisis, the ruling party has had to abandon that vow. Spaniards with assets exceeding $900,000 must continue coughing up an extra 0.2 percent to 2.5 percent to the state.

Iceland also adopted a wealth tax after its economy tanked during the global financial meltdown. On the other hand, the Swedes ditched theirs in 2007 because officials said it encouraged residents such as Ikea tycoon Ingvar Kamprad to park vast amounts of capital offshore instead of investing it in Sweden and creating jobs.

In Britain, which is straining to put a brake on its runaway deficit, the junior governing party has called for a “mansion tax” on properties worth more than $3.2 million.

“I think the public wants to make sure the country balances its books in the fairest possible way,” says lawmaker Stephen Williams of the Liberal Democrats. “I think the public would want to see people on higher incomes and greater wealth contribute their fair share.”

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party have ruled out the mansion tax proposal, fueling tension between the coalition partners.

Still, Cameron has felt compelled to join, at least rhetorically, in the rising clamor for the well-off to give more. “The richest in our country have to make a contribution in what is a national effort to reduce our deficit and get our country back on track,” Cameron told BBC Radio.

Here in Belgium, more than a tenth of Uccle’s population is French. When Arnault, whose LVMH empire includes Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, confirmed his intention to seek dual French-Belgian citizenship, one of France’s leading papers splashed the headline “Get lost, rich jerk!” on its front page.

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